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NASA STEREO sees first light

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December 20, 2006

Artist's concept of the twin STEREO spacecraft studying the sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Artist's concept of the twin STEREO spacecraft studying the sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

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December 21, 2006 NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories (with appropriate acronym of STEREO) sent back their first images of the sun this week and with them a view into the sun's mounting activity. STEREO utilizes two nearly identical spacecraft on different trajectories to study the most energetic events on the surface and in the lower atmosphere of the Sun, and their travel through interplanetary space. Data from the spacecraft will allow scientists to construct the first ever three-dimensional views of the Sun, providing a new perspective on Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). CMEs are violent explosions on the surface of the Sun that can propel up to 10 billion tons of the Sun's atmosphere, at a million miles an hour, out through the corona and into space.

The two STEREO spacecraft were launched together on a Delta-II on Oct.25, 2006 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Both spacecraft flew by the Moon taking advantage of a gravity assist that has propelled one of the observatories into an orbit "ahead" of the Earth in its journey around the Sun, and the other "behind" our planet as it makes its yearly revolution.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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