NASA launches IRIS solar mission to study space weather

NASA launched IRIS solar observatory on Thursday, that will travel through the Sun‘s lower atmosphere, to help scientists to unlock the secrets of how material gathers, moves and heats up.   Image © NASA/Randy Beaudoin

Above: Technicians and engineers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California mate the Pegasus XL rocket with the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, solar observatory to the Orbital Sciences L-1011 carrier aircraft.

NASA launches IRIS solar mission
Image © VAFB/Chris Wiant



An Orbital Sciences L-1011 carrier aircraft takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a mission to launch NASA’s IRIS spacecraft into low-Earth orbit. IRIS, short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, was launched on June 27, 2013 aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket released from the L-1011.

NASA launches IRIS solar mission
Image © NASA

NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) solar observatory began its mission after a 13-minute ride into orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket.

IRIS will open a new window of discovery by tracing the flow of energy and plasma through the chromospheres and transition region into the sun’s corona using spectrometry and imaging. The IRIS mission will observe how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up as it travels through a largely unexplored region of the solar atmosphere. The interface region, located between the sun’s visible surface and upper atmosphere, is where most of the sun’s ultraviolet emission is generated. These emissions impact the near-Earth space environment and Earth’s climate.



NASA launches IRIS solar mission to study space weather 2

The fully integrated spacecraft and science instrument for NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission is seen in a clean room at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Sunnyvale, Calif. facility. The solar arrays are deployed in the configuration they will assume when in orbit.   Image © NASA/Lockheed Martin

Understanding the interface between the photosphere and corona remains a fundamental challenge in solar and heliospheric science. The IRIS mission opens a window of discovery into this crucial region by tracing the flow of energy and plasma through the chromosphere and transition region into the corona using spectrometry and imaging.

NASA IRIS solar mission



IRIS is designed to provide significant new information to increase our understanding of energy transport into the corona and solar wind and provide an archetype for all stellar atmospheres. The unique instrument capabilities, coupled with state of the art 3-D modeling, will fill a large gap in our knowledge of this dynamic region of the solar atmosphere. The mission will extend the scientific output of existing heliophysics spacecraft that follow the effects of energy release processes from the sun to Earth.

sources NASA1,   NASA2