June 27th: The Launch of the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS)

June 27, 2023

On June 27, 2013, NASA embarked on a pioneering mission to unravel the secrets of the Sun by launching the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) space probe. IRIS was designed to study the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, with a focus on a complex region known as the interface region. This area, lying between the Sun’s photosphere and corona, plays a critical role in the transfer of energy and material, powering the solar wind and driving solar events such as flares and coronal mass ejections.

The build-up to the launch of IRIS was characterized by meticulous planning and scientific research. NASA’s Small Explorer Program, which promotes cost-effective, science-driven missions to explore the wonders of the universe, championed the development of IRIS. Lockheed Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory designed and manages the IRIS mission.

Equipped with an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, IRIS was able to capture high-resolution images and spectra of the interface region. Its observations were vital in enhancing the understanding of how energy and plasma move from the Sun’s surface to the outer corona and into space. The probe’s ability to capture data on such small scales and with high temporal resolution bridged a gap in the observation capabilities between other solar missions.

The IRIS mission has significantly expanded our knowledge of the sun. Its observations and data have led to enhanced solar models, giving scientists valuable insights into solar activity, which can affect space weather and impact satellite operations, telecommunications, and power grids on Earth. The success of the IRIS mission underscores the importance of space exploration in understanding our universe and safeguarding our technological society.




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