News / Science & Technology

NASA Prepares for Next Solar Mission

NASA Mission to Probe Sun's Mysteriesi
X
June 24, 2013 9:18 PM
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid