IRIS - NASA's New Solar Telescope

NASA is preparing a new mission to the sun. A new telescope is planned to observe the area between the sun’s surface and the corona, its upper layer which is about a thousand times hotter than the solar surface.

IRIS, NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph is a small satellite which will observe solar activity from a polar earth orbit at a height of about 600km. It is expected to send clear and sharp images, which will be more detailed than ever before, back to Earth. These images are to be entered into computer models which will show how energy and material is transferred from the surface of the sun to its outer atmosphere.

This region has an impact on our planet’s climate and also influences what is called space weather, the conditions that prevail between the planets. IRIS will observe several ranges of temperature, up to a million degrees Celsius during solar flares.

Scientists have been wondering for a long time why temperatures in the sun’s corona are considerably hotter than they are on the star’s surface. They know little about the area in between; where high energy plasma moves back and forth and where the sun’s ultraviolet emissions are generated. The mission is scheduled for two years but could last longer.

IRIS - NASA's new solar telescope

IRIS - NASA's new solar telescope

 

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Words

  • condition = state, situation
  • considerably = very much
  • corona = outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere
  • detailed = clear, exact
  • generate = produce
  • height = how high something is
  • image = picture
  • influence = affect
  • observe = watch
  • plasma = gas that has positive and negative electric charges and which is found near the sun and other stars
  • polar = here: above the poles
  • prevail = exist
  • range = here: different categories of
  • satellite = machine that is sent into space and goes around the Earth, the moon or other planets
  • schedule = plan
  • solar = relating to the sun
  • surface = the outer part of an object
  • telescope = an object shaped like a tube and used to make faraway things look bigger; scientists use it to observe the planets and the stars
  • transfer = transport ; bring from one place to another
  • ultraviolet emissions = rays that the sun sends out that make your skin darker