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20090726

There is much of the Sun we do not see.

NASA scientists are launching two spacecraft that will orbit the sun and beam back information about all sides of the Sun at once.

Scientists aren't content to get just half of the picture, so they've launched the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories) mission, a pair of NASA spacecraft that will orbit the sun simultaneously to provide a complete view of all sides of the star at once.

"Then there will be no place to hide and we can see the entire sun for the first time," STEREO project scientist Michael Kaiser of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told Wired.com.

NASA is hoping this will lead to further information regarding solar storms which lead to problems with cell phones, communication equipment, and the power grid.

Solar storms are magnetic disruptions on the sun that release violent sprays of charged particles into space. These storms can produce magnificent displays of the Northern Lights. But some past storms have also cost airlines and satellite communications industries millions of dollars, and have led to large scale power blackouts (including one across the entire province of Quebec, Canada). Being able to reliably forecast these tempests in advance could make a huge difference in preventing disturbances on Earth.

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