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NASA's twin STEREO probes were positioned on each side of the sun on Sunday and are now beaming back uninterrupted images of the entire star — front and back.
"For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full 3-dimensional glory," says Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the STEREO science team at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC.
NASA released a 'first light' 3D movie on, naturally, Super Bowl Sunday.
Vourlidas called it a "big moment in solar physics."
"STEREO has revealed the sun as it really is--a sphere of hot plasma and intricately woven magnetic fields," he said.
"There are many fundamental puzzles underlying solar activity. By monitoring the whole sun, we can find missing pieces."
Each STEREO -- Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory -- probe photographs half of the star and beams the images to Earth, where researchers combine the two views to create a sphere.
But these are no ordinary pictures.
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.