Skip to main content

How the Tiny IRIS Sun Observing Satellite Works (Infographic)

Infographic: IRIS orbits the Earth and focuses on tiny details on the sun's surface with its small but powerful telescope.
IRIS orbits the Earth and focuses on tiny details on the sun's surface with its small but powerful telescope.
(Image: © Karl Tate, SPACE.com Infographics Artist)

The tiny IRIS satellite makes close-up observations of the surface of the sun. The detailed images made in ultraviolet light will rival those from the Japanese Hinode solar satellite.

The satellite's single instrument, a high-powered ultraviolet telescope, sees only 1 percent of the sun at a time, but can resolve features just 150 miles (240 kilometers) across on the face of the sun. 

IRIS orbits in a polar, sun-synchronous path that takes the satellite over the equator at the same local time each day.

IRIS is an acronym standing for "Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph." IRIS is classified as a Small Explorer satellite and is about 7 feet high (2.1 meters) and 12 feet across (3.7 meters).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.