Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Spacecraft
Solar Prominences, September 2008
Solar Prominences (Ahead Spacecraft)
Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Spacecraft

Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA

For stereophonic sound recordings, there are multiple microphones and two transmission channels to simulate hearing something live. The STEREO mission consists of two space-based observatories—one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind. Using this pair of viewpoints, scientists will have stereoscopic images that show the structure and evolution of solar storms as they blast from the Sun and move out through space. On February 6, 2011, the two spacecraft were exactly 180 degrees apart from each other, allowing the entire Sun to be seen at once for the first time.

October 26, 2006

December 15, 2006 and January 21, 2007 (heliocentric orbit)

End of Mission
Still operating

STEREO will trace the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth as well as reveal the 3-D structure of coronal mass ejections and help us understand why they happen. Provide alerts for Earth-directed solar ejections, from its unique side-viewing perspective adding it to the fleet of Space Weather detection satellites. Coronal mass ejections directed toward Earth can damage and even destroy satellites, are extremely hazardous to Astronauts when outside of the protection of the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station performing Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs), and they have been known to cause electrical power outages.

STEREO discovered powerful radio waves in the radiation belts around Earth that are capable of pushing electrons to near the speed of light. This speed gives the electrons enough energy to quickly knock out computers, pierce spacesuits, and damage the tissues of astronauts. It had been thought that this increase in speed happens over a span of minutes or even tens of hours, but in fact electrons can be energized in a tenth of a second. Solar “tsunamis” have been observed in four different wavelengths corresponding to four different temperatures, enabling the team to see how the wave moves through the different layers of the solar atmosphere. STEREO observed loops in the Sun’s corona (atmosphere) in 3-D, revealing structure as never before.