PALO ALTO, Calif., July 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) observatory, designed and built by Lockheed Martin [NYSE:LMT] for NASA, has produced its first images and spectra of a little understood region of the sun through which the energy that supports the Sun's hot corona is transported. IRIS was launched on June 27, 2013, and the front door of the IRIS telescope was opened on July 17.
"The quality of images and spectra we are receiving from IRIS is amazing. This is just what we were hoping for," said Dr. Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator and physicist at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif. "There is much work ahead to understand what we're seeing, but the quality of the data will enable us to do that."
The IRIS mission has long-term implications for understanding the genesis of solar storms. By tracing the flow of energy and plasma through the interface region – between the solar surface and the solar corona – where most of the sun's ultraviolet emissions are generated, IRIS data will allow scientists to study and model a region of the sun that has yet to reveal its secrets.
"With IRIS, we now have a unique opportunity to provide significant missing pieces in our understanding of energy transport on the sun," said Dr. Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator and physicist at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif. "The complex processes and enormous contrasts of density, temperature and magnetic field within this interface region require instrument and modeling capabilities that are now finally within reach."The evolution of IRIS from concept to space-based solar observatory was remarkably rapid. The contract was awarded to the Lockheed Martin-led IRIS team on June 23, 2009. Four years and four days later, IRIS was in orbit. Just 20 days after launch, engineers in the IRIS Mission Operations Center at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., downlinked the initial images. "The IRIS mission has been, from inception, an enormous international collaborative development effort," said Title. "Our IRIS team was formed to design the mission and prepare the initial proposal. We have worked together seamlessly ever since."