NASA's IRIS observes first coronal mass ejection -- aka a giant solar flare

"This is the first clear CME for IRIS so the team is very excited," said Bart De Pontieu.
By Brooks Hays  |  May 30, 2014 at 6:11 PM
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PALO ALTO, Calif., May 30 (UPI) -- Earlier this month, a coronal mass ejection (CME) -- which sounds both gross and dangerous, until you learn it's just a really big solar flare -- leaped from the side of the sun. Luckily, IRIS, NASA's newest solar observatory, was in prime position to capture a detailed profile view of extraordinary ejection.

Capturing the impressive CME was a first for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, which launched in just last summer.

IRIS and its human controllers on Earth are glad to receive the congratulations for capturing such a magnificent solar event on camera; but even they realize the feat is a little bit of guesswork and a lot of luck, as IRIS has to be pointed and focused on a specific region of the sun up to a day in advance.

"We focus in on active regions to try to see a flare or a CME," said Bart De Pontieu, a scientist on the IRIS project. "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."

IRIS was designed and built by engineers at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, where it continues to be managed from.

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