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Solar Landscapes Captured & Available
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Solar Landscapes Captured & Available

NASA's STEREO probes (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) have reached their optimal positions. These two probes are orbiting the behemoth on opposite sides, sharing Earth's orbit. Free of atmosphere, their imaging centres are pointed perpetually at the star, and imaging one hemisphere each.

The purpose? To create a continually changing, real-time map of the spherical star. Each STEREO probe photographs half of the star and beams the images to Earth. Researchers combine the two views to create a sphere. These aren't just regular pictures, however. STEREO's telescopes are tuned to four wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet radiation selected to trace key aspects of solar activity such as flares, tsunamis and magnetic filaments. Nothing escapes their attention."With data like these, we can fly around the sun to see what's happening over the horizon—without ever leaving our desks," says STEREO program scientist Lika Guhathakurta at NASA headquarters. "I expect great advances in theoretical solar physics and space weather forecasting."

Beyond such advances as weather forecasting, possessing such stellar maps is a definite boon for VR. Rather than just having stars as simple light sources in the sky, use of these maps allows a perfectly realistic star to be created, with utterly realistic conditions. As the maps are ongoing, over time a wide range of different conditions will be observed, sufficient to create a while host of realistic stars – with the correct weather patterns – without them looking alike.

The new view could reveal connections previously overlooked. For instance, researchers have long suspected that solar activity can "go global," with eruptions on opposite sides of the sun triggering and feeding off of one another. Now they can actually study the phenomenon. The Great Eruption of August 2010 engulfed about 2/3rd of the stellar surface with dozens of mutually interacting flares, shock waves, and reverberating filaments. Much of the action was hidden from Earth, but plainly visible to the STEREO-SDO fleet.

"There are many fundamental puzzles underlying solar activity," says Vourlidas. "By monitoring the whole sun, we can find missing pieces."

References

About STEREO

First Ever STEREO Images of the Entire Sun

Staff Comments

 


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