Wednesday, February 9, 2011
The US space agency has released the first pictures of the full Sun from front to back, taken by NASA's twin solar spacecraft which have captured it from opposite ends.
"For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full 3-dimensional glory," said Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) science team.
"STEREO has revealed the sun as it really is – a sphere of hot plasma and intricately woven magnetic fields."
The STEREO project was launched in 2006 and studies the flow of energy and matter from the sun to Earth, NASA said.
In 2007, the spacecraft took the first 3-D images of the Sun, and in 2009 it observed in 3-D the hot eruptions, known as coronal mass ejections, that can disrupt communications, satellite, navigation and power grids on Earth.
Scientists say the information from the latest STEREO mission should help advance the field of space forecasting for Earth.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration already uses STEREO's 3-D models to improve space weather forecasts for airlines, power companies, satellite operators, and others.
"With data like these, we can fly around the sun to see what's happening over the horizon – without ever leaving our desks," said STEREO program scientist Lika Guhathakurta.