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NASA's IRIS Mission Begins:
Its Goal Is To Reveal Some Of The Sun's Deepest Secrets

28 June, 2013

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MessageToEagle.com - NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft mission to study the solar atmosphere was placed in orbit by an Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket - on Thursday at 7:27 p.m. PDT (10:27 p.m. EDT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The Pegasus XL carrying IRIS was deployed from an Orbital L-1011 carrier aircraft over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 39,000 feet, off the central coast of California about 100 miles northwest of Vandenberg.

The rocket placed IRIS into a sun-synchronous polar orbit that will allow it to make almost continuous solar observations during its two-year mission.


Credits: NASA


The 7-foot-long Iris, weighs 400 pounds and carries an ultraviolet telescope that can take high-resolution images every few seconds.

It will observe how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up as it travels through a little-understood region in the sun's lower atmosphere.

"We are thrilled to add IRIS to the suite of NASA missions studying the sun," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington.

"IRIS will help scientists understand the mysterious and energetic interface between the surface and corona of the sun."

The interface region between the sun's photosphere and corona powers its dynamic million-degree atmosphere and drives the solar wind.

"This region is crucial for understanding how the corona gets so hot," said Joe Davila, IRIS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.vv

"For the first time, we will have the capability to observe it at fundamental physical scale sizes and see details that have previously been hidden."


The mission will help scientists understand how the energy dancing through this area helps power the sunís million-degree upper atmosphere, the corona, as well as how this energy powers the solar wind constantly streaming off the sun to fill the entire solar system.


Iris launch and deploy animation


The interface region also is where most of the sun's ultraviolet emission is generated. These emissions impact the near-Earth space environment and Earth's climate.

"Congratulations to the entire team on the successful development and deployment of the IRIS mission," said IRIS project manager Gary Kushner of the Lockheed Martin Solar and Atmospheric Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Now that IRIS is in orbit, we can begin our 30-day engineering checkout followed by a 30-day science checkout and calibration period."

IRIS is expected to start science observations upon completion of its 60-day commissioning phase. During this phase the team will check image quality and perform calibrations and other tests to ensure a successful mission.


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See also:
NASA IRIS Mission's New Challenge: Improving Our View Of The Sun

Gigantic Radio Galaxy Discovered 750 Million Light Years From Earth

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