The Sun In 3D
A Sci/Tech Feature

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 10 February 2011
Category: Sci/Tech > Features Comments View Comments


Tucked away slightly in the Wikimedia Commons is a 3D anaglyph of the sun that was taken by NASA in 2007 and spruced up on 9 February 2011 by a Wikipedia user to give it more depth and impact. Get out your red-cyan glasses!

The sun in 3D
[ Wikimedia Commons: image above (high res) | original image ]

On 26 October 2006 NASA launched two probes, called STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory), whose focus is to take stereographic images of the sun. The first 3D images of the sun were released in 2007, including the image above, which was taken sometime between 17 and 27 March 2007 by STEREO's SECCHI/Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. It is a type of 3D image called an anaglyph image.

[View NASA's related 2007 3D video clip here and other 3D images from STEREO here.]

Over the years their orbits have been adjusted so that probe A is now in a heliocentric orbit inside Earth's orbit and probe B is in a heliocentric orbit outside Earth's orbit. On 6 February 2011 the two probes reached orbits that placed them at 180 degrees to each other, with the sun in the middle. This allowed NASA to photograph both the "front" and "back" of the sun at the same time, creating the first "full" pictures. At these positions NASA is also able to observe solar phenomena that we would not otherwise be able to see, such as coronal mass ejections, which can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth, on the side of the sun facing away from us.

Learn More About STEREO

The video above is also in the public domain. You can download it here [although the link currently isn't loading] or view it on YouTube here.

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