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NASA Launched Sun-Watching Satellite

On June 26, NASA launched satellite called – IRIS for a Small Explorer Mission to observe how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up as it travels through a little-understood region in the sun’s lower atmosphere. This interface region between the sun’s photosphere and corona powers its dynamic million-degree atmosphere and drives the solar wind.

Unlike to normal satellite launch where a rocket is used to launch the satellite in outer space , here NASA used an airplane and a Pegasus rocket to launch a satellite over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday. The satellite will examine a little-studied area of the sun in hopes of improving space weather prediction.

Researchers hope NASA’s latest solar observatory will answer a fundamental question of how the sun creates such intense energy. IRIS will show the solar chromosphere in more detail than has ever been observed before.

The video below shows the deployment of the Pegasus Rocket with the observatory from the Orbital L1011, different stages and how IRIS satellite is finally settled in outer space.

The Pegasus will ignite its solid-fueled first stage five seconds into its fall and arch skyward with the main wing giving it lift and the three fins in the back steering it through the thick layers of Earth’s lower atmosphere.

The rocket will burn its load of fuel in 73 seconds and fall away. The second stage, which has no wings, will ignite 94 seconds into flight and push IRIS higher and faster into space. The third stage will take over after that, delivering IRIS into its orbit about 10 minutes after launch.

IRIS is a NASA Small Explorer Mission to observe the characteristics of solar material as it moves through the little-understood interface region between the sun’s photosphere and corona that powers the sun’s million-degree atmosphere and drives the solar wind.

NASA Television provided live launch, the video below that show coverage of the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS mission on June 26, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The IRIS spacecraft will point a telescope at the interface region of the sun that lies between the surface and the million degree outer atmosphere called the corona. It will improve our understanding of how energy moves from the sun’s surface to the glowing corona, heating up from 6,000 degrees to millions of degrees.

The IRIS mission (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) calls for the 7-foot-long spacecraft to point its ultraviolet telescope at the sun to discern features as small as 150 miles across. It will look at about 1 percent of the sun’s surface.

On June 28 NASA’s IRIS solar observatory separated from its Pegasus rocket and is in the proper orbit. Eight months out of the year, NASA will able to freely view the sun in that orbit. IRIS is in space with its solar panels unfolded to provide electricity and the telescope flipped open, scientists expect to see interesting  solar data pretty any time soon.

Source: NASA – Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS)

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