And now, in STEREO

A rocket blasts off.  Photo from National Reconnaissance Office.
A rocket blasts off. Photo from National Reconnaissance Office.

On October 25, NASA fired two spacecraft on a single rocket. No, they weren’t trying to save money. The spacecraft contains two observatories, called STEREO, for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. Over the next two years, these instruments will keep an eye on the Sun – or, rather, two eyes. The observatories will circle the Sun in slightly different orbits, taking pictures from different angles. On Earth, scientists will combine those pictures into 3-D images. They hope this will give us a better understanding of solar flares – giant eruptions on the sun which shoot tons of hot gas at the Earth. This gas causes the beautiful Northern Lights – but can also disrupt electronic communications, and bathe astronauts in radiation.

But mostly I like this story because it contains the single coolest quote I’ve ever heard from a NASA scientist:

“Of the bazillion stars that we have in our night sky, the Sun is the only one that counts.”

OK, technically the Sun isn’t in the night sky, but you get the point. ;-)

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