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NASA twin probe fetches first 3-dimensional image of Sun

RIA Novosti

05:31 07/02/2011

MOSCOW, February 7 (RIA Novosti) - Twin spacecraft STEREO A ("Ahead") and B ("Behind") reached their final locations on opposite sides of the Sun and transmitted the first ever three-dimensional image of the sun, NASA said.

The STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) project will improve space weather forecasting, allowing scientists see what is going on the far side of the Sun before the star completes its 27-day rotation period.

"For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full 3-dimensional glory," Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the Stereo science team at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC, was quoted as saying on NASA website.

Each of the two solar satellites, launched more than four years ago, takes a picture of half of the star and then sends the data back to the Earth, where researches combine the two pictures.

The latest image of the far side of the Sun, taken last Wednesday, still shows a small gap between the STEREO A and B data. This gap started to close on Sunday and is expected to completely disappear over the next several days.

According to the website, the spacecraft would not let an active sunspot could stay unnoticed on the far side of the sun. Previously, such region could be turned toward the Earth when the Sun rotates, and send flares and clouds of plasma toward our planet, with little warning.

"Farside active regions can no longer take us by surprise. Thanks to STEREO, we know they're coming," said Bill Murtagh, a senior forecaster at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

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