A first for NASA's IRIS: Observing a gigantic eruption of solar material

May 31, 2014

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, surged off the side of the sun on May 9, 2014, and NASA's newest solar observatory caught it in extraordinary detail. This was the first CME observed by the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, which launched in June 2013 to peer into the lowest levels of the sun's atmosphere with better resolution than ever before. Watch the movie to see how a curtain of solar material erupts outward at speeds of 1.5 million miles per hour.

IRIS must commit to pointing at certain areas of the at least a day in advance, so catching a CME in the act involves some educated guesses and a little bit of luck.

"We focus in on active regions to try to see a flare or a CME," said Bart De Pontieu, the IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. "And then we wait and hope that we'll catch something. This is the first clear CME for IRIS so the team is very excited."

The IRIS imagery focuses in on material of 30,000 kelvins at the base, or foot points, of the CME. The line moving across the middle of the movie is the entrance slit for IRIS's spectrograph, an instrument that can split light into its many wavelengths – a technique that ultimately allows scientists to measure temperature, velocity and density of the solar material behind the slit.

The field of view for this imagery is about five Earths wide and about seven-and-a-half Earths tall.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A coronal mass ejection burst off the side of the sun on May 9, 2014. The giant sheet of solar material erupting was the first CME seen by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS. The field of view seen here is about five Earths wide and about seven-and-a-half Earths tall. Credit: NASA/LMSAL/IRIS/SDO/Goddard

Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory designed the IRIS Observatory and manages the mission. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, provides mission operations and ground data systems. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Explorers Program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

Explore further: NASA's IRIS spots its largest solar flare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's IRIS spots its largest solar flare

Feb 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —On Jan. 28, 2014, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, witnessed its strongest solar flare since it launched in the summer of 2013. Solar flares are bursts of x-rays and light ...

Solar satellite arrives at Vandenberg AFB for launch

Apr 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, April 16, to begin its final preparations for launch currently scheduled ...

NASA IRIS: Improving our view of the sun

May 29, 2013

In late June 2013, NASA will launch a new set of eyes to offer the most detailed look ever of the sun's lower atmosphere, called the interface region. This region is believed to play a crucial role in powering ...

IRIS provides unprecedented images of sun

Dec 09, 2013

The region located between the surface of the sun and its atmosphere has been revealed as a more violent place than previously understood, according to images and data from NASA's newest solar observatory, ...

NASA's STEREO detects a CME from the sun

May 17, 2013

On 5:24 a.m. EDT on May 17, 2013, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME, a solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space that can reach Earth ...

Recommended for you

How commercial spaceflight makes a profit

1 hour ago

There's a big difference in thinking between governments and the private companies that participate in space. While entities such as NASA can work on understanding basic human health or exploring the universe ...

The case for a mission to Mars' moon Phobos

1 hour ago

Ask any space enthusiast, and almost anyone will say humankind's ultimate destination is Mars. But NASA is currently gearing up to go to an asteroid. While the space agency says its Asteroid Initiative will ...

Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe

20 hours ago

A frozen fuel pipe in the upper stage of a Soyuz launcher likely caused the failure last month to place two European navigation satellites in orbit, a source close to the inquiry said Wednesday.

Cyanide ice in Titan's atmosphere

22 hours ago

Gigantic polar clouds of hydrogen cyanide roughly four times the area of the UK are part of the impressive atmospheric diversity of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, a new study led by Leiden Observatory, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ormondotvos
not rated yet Jun 01, 2014
If one of these happens to hit the earth's ozone layer, we could have a failure of MOST electrical distribution, transformers, generators.

Whee!