NASA Unveils New Sun Images

These two images show a section of the sun as seen by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, on the right and NASA's SDO on the left.
article top
These two images show a section of the sun as seen by NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, on the right and NASA’s SDO on the left.

NASA’s new solar observatory is already giving scientists an unprecedented glimpse of the sun.  The U.S. space agency has released the first images from the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, known as IRIS, which was launched one month ago.

The images show an active, dynamic region.  NASA describes spots that quickly brighten and dim, and thread-like towers of energy that reveal major temperature differences in the sun’s lower atmosphere.
The IRIS satellite looks at the little-understood, lowest layers of the sun’s atmosphere.
Solving solar mysteries 
John Grunsfeld, of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, described the moment on July 17 when the solar observatory’s telescope caught its first glimpse of the sun.
“When the aperture door opened, it was truly a grand opening of a new era of solar physics,” he told reporters.
Still image from the first IRIS movie, 21 hours after opening the door.

Grunsfeld described the sun’s interface region as “a crucial link in that story of unraveling the mysteries of the sun.”

Among those mysteries is just how the sun’s upper atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface, even though it’s farther from the sun’s heat-generating core.  IRIS observes the way solar material gathers energy and heats up as it rises through the sun’s lower atmosphere.
Computer simulations vs. IRIS images
Bart DePontieu, an IRIS researcher based at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center in California, says scientists have compared computer simulations and the data they’ve collected from IRIS.
“We’ve been struck by the similarities with what IRIS sees, but we also already know that there are differences that are puzzling us,” he said.  “And, actually, that’s where we get excited because it’s these discrepancies that tell us that we’re missing something in our understanding.”
DePontieu says scientists hope to observe large explosions on the sun that can disrupt technology here on Earth, as well as the less dramatic solar moments that affect near-Earth space and our climate.
The $181 million IRIS mission is set to last two years, but scientists say the solar explorer could function much longer.





  1. Wow, it's amazing how much we can find out with the help of technology! I wonder what's the view like from the Moon… must be a sinking feeling to know that if you lift a finger you're covering the planet you were born on, and live on!

  2. Amazing! I wonder how many things that we still don't know about are there. It seems like after all these years we are still barely scratching the surface.

  3. I am always amazed by photos like these, even though I'm pretty much used to them by now. I can't believe how far human race has come

  4. When i think about how little we are and how short our lives are, i get this sinking feeling. It happened again when I saw these pictures…

  5. When I see these pictures I imagine how little we are… we have done so many things and we succeed in a great way

  6. It;'s a bit terrifying to think about how little we are and to actually understand the scale of the objects in our universe

Comments are closed.