Watching the Surface of the Sun Is Terrifying (and Awesome)

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 - 4:33PM
Space
Sun
Tuesday, 27 June 2017 - 4:33PM
Watching the Surface of the Sun Is Terrifying (and Awesome)
Image credit: NASA/Goddard Flight Center
If you're not familiar with NASA's IRIS satellite, take one look at its job description:

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The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a NASA Small Explorer Mission to observe how solar material moves, gathers energy, and heats up as it travels through a little-understood region in the sun's lower atmosphere. Tracking how material and energy move through this region is a crucial part of understanding the dynamics of the sun. Such information can help explain what causes the ejection of solar material — from the steady stream of the solar wind to larger, explosive eruptions such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — that travels toward Earth and causes space weather that can disrupt human technology.
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Sure, Curiosity gets to explore other planets, but IRIS gets to stare at the sun and guard humanity against solar flares. The only NASA satellite mission more intense is probably Voyager, since it's just racing away from humanity into the void at 38,000 miles per hour. Still, Voyager doesn't send back videos of continent-sized lakes of fire and loops of super-hot hydrogen writhing across a giant furnace of destruction:



IRIS has been orbiting the sun since its launch in 2013, and celebrated its 10,000th orbit in May of 2015. If you want to check out more awesome photos of the surface of the sun, head to the NASA page!
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