First Light for IRIS

The first light image from the new IRIS spacecraft.  Click for larger. Credit: NASA
The first light image from the new IRIS spacecraft. Click for larger. Credit: NASA

Last week NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph observatory opened its eyes to the Sun.

From the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics:

This image from NASA’s IRIS spacecraft shows the region around two sunspots – the dark areas at upper left and lower right. It shows emission from ionized silicon (Si IV) in the transition region at a temperature of about 116,000 degrees Fahrenheit, plus ultraviolet continuum from the chromosphere at a temperature of about 17,000 degrees F. The bright dots are short-lived, intense patches of Si IV emission. The role that these dynamic events have in heating the solar atmosphere is currently unknown.


Above is a wider shot of the same region from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.  Credit: NASA

3 thoughts on “First Light for IRIS

  1. They launched IRIS at an interesting time, with the currently reduced (11 year) solar cycle.

    I don’t know if you know, but there is the theory of Livingston and Penn (as sometimes recounted by Leif Svalgaard on his website and on WUWT) that sunspots are currently getting cooler (as part of a longer sunspot cycle) and that they might become “invisible” within the next cycle(s), and that they will only be observable outside the visible range of the spectrum for the next few cycles. I think Grand Minimum is the term for it.

    Surely an interesting time to do solar science.

  2. Oh I know! They are so stupid it’s amazing. Still they do sneak by the filters from time to time. Seem to go in streaks too. Lately there has been a spike and I may have to put in a captcha to help.

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