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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. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/IRIS

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.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/IRIS

On July 17, 2013, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, orbited around Earth and opened its door to view the lowest layers of the Sun's atmosphere for the first time. The international team of scientists and engineers who supported and built IRIS saw the amazing results. The data is crisp and clear, showing unprecedented detail of this little-observed region.

"These beautiful images from IRIS are going to help us understand how the sun's lower atmosphere might power a host of events around the sun," said Adrian Daw, the mission scientist for IRIS at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Anytime you look at something in more detail than has ever been seen before, it opens up new doors to understanding. There's always that potential element of surprise."

The first images that IRIS captured showed a large amount of thin, fibril-like structures that have never been seen before.  They reveal enormous contrasts in density and temperature which occur throughout this region. The images also show spots that brighten and dim very quickly, which provide clues to how energy is transported and absorbed throughout the region.

 Read the full story on NASA's website.

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