NASA's sun-observing IRIS spacecraft has acquired its first detail look at a huge coronal mass discharge exploding from the sun, and boy howdy is it stunning. In the video below, a marvelous sheet of solar material can be seen exploding from our parent star. Watch as it quickly ingests a field of view five-Earths wide and seven-and-a-half-Earths tall, coming outward from the sun at speeds of 1.5-million miles per hour. The view is extraordinary for IRIS, which launched in June of last year to detect the lowest levels of the sun's atmosphere with better resolution than ever before.
IRIS must commit to pointing at certain areas of the sun at least a day in advance, so catching a CME in the act involves some educated guesses and a little bit of luck. "We focus in on active regions to try to see a flare or a CME," said Bart De Pontieu, the IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. "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."