A NASA spacecraft zooms in on a magnificent solar eruption.
A giant burst of solar material surged off the side of the sun on May 9, 2014—and NASA's newest sun-watching mission caught the event in extraordinary detail. This was the first explosion known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) that the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, spacecraft was able to observe. The spacecraft 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. On this day it focused in on the left side of the sun and happened to see the base of the CME. It recorded super-hot material erupting from the sun at speeds of 1.5 million mph. Watch the video to see it for yourself.