Breakout Your 3-D Glasses… the First STEREO Pictures are In


With you kind of coverage you’d expect from RRS, we’ve been following NASA’s stereo since its launch last October and some of the first non-3-D photos were released in late February.

As seen in the photo above, NASA is releasing the first 3-D photos taken by the STEREO project at a press conference taking place in the next few minutes. According to the NASA press release, these photos represent a significant advance in astronomy, allowing those who study the heavens an opportunity to finally really see what they’re observing.

"In the solar atmosphere, there are no clues to help us judge distance. Everything appears flat in the 2-D plane of the sky. Having a stereo perspective just makes it so much easier," said Dr. Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, the Principal Investigator for the SECCHI (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation) suite of telescopes on the spacecraft.

‘With STEREO’s 3-D imagery, we’ll be able to discern where matter and energy flows in the solar atmosphere much more precisely than with the 2-D views available before. This will really help us understand the complex physics going on,’ said Howard."

Oh, and the knowledge gained by the observation will do more than look pretty, helping scientists better gauge changes in space weather patterns and forecasts by helping them better understand Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).

"CMEs are eruptions of electrically charged gas, called plasma, from the sun’s atmosphere. A CME cloud can contain billions of tons of plasma and move at a million miles per hour.

The CME cloud is laced with magnetic fields, and CMEs directed toward Earth smash into our planet’s magnetic field. If the CME magnetic fields have the proper orientation, they dump energy and particles into Earth’s magnetic field, causing magnetic storms that can overload power line equipment and radiation storms that disrupt satellites.

Satellite and utility operators can take precautions to minimize CME damage, but they need an accurate forecast of when the CME will arrive. To do this, forecasters need to know the location of the front of the CME cloud. STEREO will allow scientists to accurately locate the CME cloud front. ‘Knowing where the front of the CME cloud is will improve estimates of the arrival time from within a day or so to just a few hours,’ said Howard. ‘STEREO also will help forecasters estimate how severe the resulting magnetic storm will be.’"

Those interested in seeing more will definitely want to check out the STEREO mission page following the press conference (11:00am EDT) when additional photos will be released.

(Don’t have a pair of 3-D Glasses on you?  Check out the NASA Guide on how to make your own 3-D specs.)