How the Tiny IRIS Sun Observing Satellite Works (Infographic)
IRIS orbits the Earth and focuses on tiny details on the sun's surface with its small but powerful telescope.
Credit: Karl Tate, 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).

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