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Astronomy

First panoramic view of the sun beamed down by twin spacecraft

7 February 2011
The Guardian

Scientists have seen their first panoramic view of the sun, in photographs beamed down by twin spacecraft that faced each other across our nearest star and took snapshots of its surface. The images from NASA's $500m Stereo mission will be used to create a three-dimensional map of the sun in an attempt to understand its innermost workings.

The identical, refrigerator-sized probes, launched in 2006, follow the Earth's orbit around the sun, one leading far ahead of the other. On 6 February, the probes became directly aligned on either side of the star, giving scientists a unique opportunity to see it from every angle.