by Donna McKinney
Naval Research Laboratory
Original press release
Beginning on February 6, 2011, the two STEREO spacecraft are 180 degrees apart providing Naval Research Laboratory scientists with a 360-degree view of the Sun. NASA’s STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft were launched on October 25, 2006, and have been gathering spectacular images of solar activity, especially solar storms, since the mission began.
A key component of the STEREO mission is NRL’s Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation (SECCHI), a suite of five scientific telescopes that observe the solar corona and inner heliosphere from the surface of the Sun to the orbit of Earth. These unique observations are made in “stereo” by the two nearly identical solar-powered STEREO observatories with one observatory ahead of Earth in its orbit and the other trailing behind. The two observatories trace the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth. The instruments aboard STEREO reveal the three-dimensional structure of coronal mass ejections, the powerful eruptions of plasma and magnetic energy from the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona.