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NASA STEREO Satellites Spent 10 Years Staring at the Sun

Oct 27, 2016 04:55 AM EDT

NASA celebrates its 10-year mission dedicated to studying the Sun using the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) satellites.

STEREO is instrumental in providing scientists with amazing and useful images of the Sun; one memorable output is the first simultaneous view of the center of the Solar System at once. STEREO was launched in 2006 and has continuously succeeded in staring into the Sun for 10 years.

Categorized as a solar observation mission, STEREO makes use of satellites that are almost identical called STEREO-A and STEREO-B. The two satellites orbit the sun since 2006. Their orbit around the Sun creates an unusually distant dance with Earth, pulling ahead and sometimes behind the planet. Due to this, the satellites were able to capture many different angles and phenomena that occur in the Sun's surroundings and surface including the coronal mass ejections.

The satellites were launched on Oct. 25, 2006, aboard the Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, according to Popular Mechanics. Since then, STEREO managed to stare into the Sun from 93 million miles.

"Until Stereo, all we had were flat images," Eric Christian, an astrophysicist in the heliophysics division of NASA's Goddard Space Center said in an interview. "So we couldn't see things like solar flares, ribbons, prominences in 3-D," Christian added.

The STEREO mission is instrumental in the sense that it has provided tons of information about the Sun that hasn't been discovered before. It also captured the first 3D image of the Sun and the first to map the coronal mass ejections, according to a report.

Also because of STEREO satellites and their unusual orbits, NASA was able to gather information from three different distinct points within the Solar System.

NASA celebrates STEREO mission's 10th year anniversary by releasing a video about the mission and its achievements in the last 10 years. The mission also resulted in other major achievements such as the identification plasma eruptions from the Sun's corona and the comprehensive mapping of the Sun. By using the STEREO satellites, scientists can also offer help in tracking solar storms in space in observing the same space weather phenomenon.

NASA may be successful in studying the Sun for the last 10 years but the agency has no plans of stopping just yet as more missions are being launched to observe objects deeper in the Solar System and even beyond.


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