IRIS mission gets first look at Sun's mysterious interface region

Jul 25, 2013
NASA's IRIS telescope offers first glimpse of sun's mysterious atmosphere
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. The IRIS image provides scientists with unprecedented detail of the lowest parts of the sun's atmosphere, known as the interface region. Credit: NASA/SDO/IRIS

NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft has captured its first observations of a region of the sun that is now possible to observe in detail: the lowest layers of the sun's atmosphere.

The first images from IRIS show the solar interface region in unprecedented detail. They reveal dynamic magnetic structures and flows of material in the sun's atmosphere and hint at tremendous amounts of energy transfer through this little-understood region. These features may help power the sun's dynamic million-degree atmosphere and drive the solar wind that streams out to fill the entire solar system.

"With this grand opening of the telescope door and first observations from IRIS we've opened a new window into the energetics of the sun's atmosphere," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The mission is a great example of a successful partnership for science between government, industry, academia, and international institutions. We look forward to the new insights IRIS will provide."

IRIS capabilities are tailored to let scientists observe the interface region in exquisite detail. The energy flowing through it powers the upper layer of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, to temperatures greater than 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million kelvins). That is almost a thousand times hotter than the sun's surface. Understanding the interface region is important because it drives the and forms the ultraviolet emission that impacts near-Earth space and Earth's climate.

As IRIS's telescope door opened for the first time ever on July 17, the imaging spectrograph began to observe the sun. IRIS's first images show a multitude of thin, fiber-like structures that have never been seen before. The observations reveal enormous contrasts in density and temperature throughout this region, even between neighboring loops only a few hundred miles apart. The images also show spots that rapidly brighten and dim, which provide clues to how energy is transported and absorbed throughout the region.

"The quality of the images and spectra we are receiving from IRIS is amazing—this is just what we were hoping for," said Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto, Calif. "There is much work ahead to understand what we're seeing, but the quality of the data will enable us to do that."

IRIS is a NASA Small Explorer mission that was launched on June 27. Designed to observe the interface region more clearly than ever before, IRIS's instrument is a combination of an ultraviolet telescope and a spectrograph. The telescope provides high-resolution images, able to resolve very fine features as small as 150 miles across. The spectrograph splits the sun's light into its various wavelengths and measures how much of any given wavelength is present. Analysis of these spectral lines also can provide velocity, temperature and density data, key information that will enable scientists to track how energy and heat moves through the region.

In the coming weeks and months, scientists will scrutinize the IRIS data of the interface region on the sun. IRIS will collect data at least an order of magnitude faster than any previous solar observatory.

The IRIS Observatory was designed by Lockheed Martin, which also manages the mission. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., built the telescope. Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., designed the spectrograph. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., provides mission operations and ground data systems. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Small Explorer Program for NASA Headquarters. The Norwegian Space Centre is providing regular downlinks of science data. Other contributors include the University of Oslo in Norway and Stanford University in California.

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cantdrive85
1 / 5 (6) Jul 25, 2013
IRIS's first images show a multitude of thin, fiber-like structures that have never been seen before.

More birkeland currents, or "flux tubes", this is what is carrying the energy.

The observations reveal enormous contrasts in density and temperature throughout this region, even between neighboring loops only a few hundred miles apart.


Being this region, and the entire Sun for that matter, are 100% plasma, double layers will be an expect phenomena with these variations. More support for Alfven's theory of exploding DL's as being the cause for CME's and such.

The images also show spots that rapidly brighten and dim, which provide clues to how energy is transported and absorbed throughout the region.

More evidence of electric circuitry, such transport of energy can be explained by plasma circuits. Not waves and fluid action.
GSwift7
not rated yet Jul 30, 2013
More birkeland currents, or "flux tubes", this is what is carrying the energy


That may very well turn out to be true, since that's how the mainstream theory goes right now.

Being this region, and the entire Sun for that matter, are 100% plasma


Actually no. The interior is so hot and dense that it should be in phases beyond simple plasma. It should be something like a superfluid or fluid crystal or some such exotic phase that you won't be able to duplicate in any lab here on Earth.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2013
More birkeland currents, or "flux tubes", this is what is carrying the energy


That may very well turn out to be true, since that's how the mainstream theory goes right now.

Ummm, if that were the case then particle and circuit models would be used, the magnetofluid models used by solar physicists CANNOT predict these structures, this is a fact.

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2013
Being this region, and the entire Sun for that matter, are 100% plasma


Actually no. The interior is so hot and dense that it should be in phases beyond simple plasma. It should be something like a superfluid or fluid crystal or some such exotic phase that you won't be able to duplicate in any lab here on Earth.

Let's consider this;
"Essential to the received theory is the conviction that inside the sun is a steep temperature gradient, falling toward the photosphere, along which the internal energy flows outward. If we stack this internal temperature gradient against the observed temperature gradient in the solar atmosphere, which falls steeply inward, toward the photosphere, we find we have diagrammed a physical absurdity: The two gradients produce a trough at the photosphere, which implies that thermal energy should collect and become stuck there until it raises the temperature and eliminates the trough. That this does not occur seems to bother no one." Juergens 1972
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2013
Not to mention, when the inside of sunspots are observed, they are much "cooler" than the photosphere as well. So, it would seem all the directly observable evidence contradicts your statement. Not to mention laws of thermodynamics and such.

100% of the observable material on the Sun is plasma, once again any claim otherwise is purely speculation based upon nothing.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2013
100% of the observable material on the Sun is plasma, once again any claim otherwise is purely speculation based upon nothing


No, seismic data, thanks to the STEREO probes, (which didn't exist way back when Juergens said that) show phase changes and stratification inside the layers of the sun. The density and pressure are so much that they do not allow plasma any more than they would allow solid, liquid or gas phases. We have demonstrated phases beyond plasma in laboratories, but the density and pressure in the sun go way beyond those. So, we don't know what happens at that level, but we know it is beyond plasma, and beyond what we can simulate in a lab. We can simulate temp and pressure beyond plasma in labs, but the sun goes beyond that. We know you get superfluids and supercrystals at somewhat milder conditions than those inside the sun, because we have actually created them in diamond anvils. So, plasma? No. Not so much. Thank anyway. You're wrong.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Aug 02, 2013
It should be something like a superfluid or fluid crystal or some such exotic phase that you won't be able to duplicate in any lab here on Earth.


"Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value the may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder."
― Carl Sagan
GSwift7
5 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2013
Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value the may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder."
― Carl Sagan


Yep, another 40+ year old quote.

Besides, solar seizmology is an empirical science, based on observations, not abstract theory. In other words, it is testable by simple observation. Alfven couldn't see those things because the observatories didn't exist then, so he had to guess. We're not guessing now; we can see it. Some of the mechanisms still cannot be explained, but we know from observations that Alfven was only partly correct. There's more going on there than just what he proposed, so don't come back with your usual silly claim that PC explains it all. It's not even close.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2013
Solar seismology is based on a long list of ASSUMPTIONS. As you stated, according to the "standard theory", the conditions of the sun's core are not reproducible, so how can the conclusions be verified? Once again, "helioseismology" is based upon failed MHD only models, there is nothing empirical about it, it remains theoretical. You keep claiming I need to "modernize" while you continue to support models proven incorrect 50+ years ago developed in the gaslight era before it was known plasma pervades the universe.

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