An Introduction to IRIS and IRISpy


IRISPy is still under heavy development and has not yet seen its first release. If you want to help develop and test IRISPy, follow these installation instructions.

The IRIS Instrument

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is satellite-borne solar scanning slit spectrograph, funded as part of NASA’s Small Explorer program and launched in June 2013. It provides simultaneous UV images and spectra of the regions between the visible surface of the Sun and its outer atmosphere (photosphere, chromosphere, transition region, and corona) with 0.33 – 0.4 arcsec spatial resolution, two-second temporal resolution and 1 km/s velocity resolution over a field-of-view of up to 175 arcsec × 175 arcsec. IRIS images are provided by its Slit-Jaw Imager (SJI) in four passbands: C ii 1330 A, Si iv 1400 A, Mg ii k 2796 A and Mg ii wing 2830 A. Meanwhile IRIS’s spectrograph provides spectra in several spectral windows in the ranges 1332–1358 A, 1389–1407 A and 2783–2834 A. For more detail, read the instrument paper.

As a scanning slit-spectrograph, IRIS disperses the sunlight by passing it through a narrow slit and onto a CCD. The spectrograph can operate in two basic modes: sit-and-stare, where the slit is aligned with a single position on the Sun; and raster, where the slit moves sequentially across the Sun perpendicular to the long axis of the slit in a pre-determined number of steps and step size. When the last position is reached, the slit returns to the origin position and starts again. IRIS is has many different observing programs involving different numbers of raster steps, step sizes, exposure times, etc., making it a powerful and flexible tool for solar physics.

The complexity of IRIS leads to a variety of different data products with different dimensionalities and ways in which they are used by scientists. Therefore a powerful, yet flexible suite of data analysis tools is required to enable users to efficiently, reliably and effectively pursue their science goals. This is the aim of IRISpy.

What is IRISpy?

IRISPy is a free, open-source, SunPy-affiliated package that provides tools to read, manipulate and visualize IRIS data using the Python programming language. IRISpy provides a set of classes for handling both SJI and spectrograph observations. These link the observations with various forms of supporting data including: measurement uncertainties; units; a data mask to mark pixels with unreliable or unphysical data values; WCS (World Coordinate System) transformations that describe the position, wavelengths and times represented by the pixels; and general metadata. These classes also provide methods for applying a number of calibration routines including exposure time correction and conversion between data number, photons, and energy units. Moreover, because the data unit is linked to the object, it is always obvious what unit the data is in. This saves scientists the hassle of performing important, but laborious and repetitive data conversions and avoid confusion by always tracking the unit of the data through those conversions. This leads to more efficient and accurate science.

IRISpy classes inherit more fundamental functionality from the ndcube package. A powerful, generic slicing API (application programmable interface) allows users to manipulate the same data object as if it were 3D (time, latitude, wavelength) or 4D (raster number, longitude, latitude, wavelength), which is very useful when dealing with scanning slit-spectrograph data. The API simultaneously slices not only the data, but the uncertainties, data mask, and WCS transformations leading to faster and less error-prone data analysis. The IRISpy classes also inherit the ability to crop by real world coordinates, useful when locating a region of interest using information from other observatories, and a visualization suite which allows users to easily and intuitively visually inspect their data.

This guide will explain in detail the capabilities offered by IRISpy and how to utilize them. It will describe the different data classes, as well as how to install IRISpy, contact the development team, and contribute to the package. IRISpy is open-source and community-developed and we are always glad to welcome new contributors and users.