News / Science & Technology

NASA Prepares for Next Solar Mission

NASA Mission to Probe Sun's Mysteriesi
X
June 24, 2013
NASA, the U.S. space agency, is preparing to launch a mission to study the sun, specifically its mysterious interface region, the area between the sun's surface and its corona or upper atmosphere. VOA's Suzanne Presto in Washington has more about the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, which is set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on June 27.
TEXT SIZE - +
Suzanne Presto
— The U.S. space agency NASA is preparing to launch a new mission to study the sun. The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, will observe the way solar material gathers energy and heats up as it moves through the sun's lower atmosphere.

The upper layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, is thousands of times hotter than the sun's surface.  

Scientists want to figure out how that happens, so they are preparing a mission to study the sun's so-called interface region, the area between the sun's photosphere and its corona.  

Energy and plasma that flow through the interface region have an impact on us here on Earth. That region is the source of the sun's ultraviolet emission, which has an effect on our planet's climate, as well as the near-Earth space environment. Energy that seeps through the interface region drives solar wind.    

That's where NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission comes into play. IRIS is a small satellite with the ability to perform complex solar observations.

Alan Title, the IRIS principal investigator based at Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center in California, spoke to reporters about the mission's importance.

"What we want to discover is what the basic physical processes are that transfer energy and material from the surface of the sun out to the outer atmosphere to the corona," he explained. "And, remember, the corona extends throughout the heliosphere. We live in the sun's outer atmosphere."

High-resolution images & high temperatures

IRIS will provide high-resolution images that even will show individual structures of energy as they rapidly stretch away from the sun. The U.S. space agency says IRIS images will be three-to-four times as detailed as those from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.  

IRIS also will provide spectra, data that reveals information about multiple wavelengths of light at once.

NASA says IRIS will observe a range of temperatures from about 5,000 to 65,000 degrees Celsius, and up to about 10 million degrees Celsius during solar flares. But IRIS will not be observing the sun from up close.

"IRIS flies around the Earth so it only gets about 600 kilometers closer to the sun than we are here on Earth, and that's about 92 million miles away," said principal investigator Alan Title. "So it's really not very much closer to the sun."

The $181 million mission is set to last two years, but scientists say the solar explorer could function much longer.  

IRIS is set to launch aboard a Pegasus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on June 26.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid