The Other Side of the Sun

BY Jenny Marder  February 6, 2011 at 2:51 PM EST

Two solar probes have beamed back the first full images of the sun. The identical twin STEREO spacecraft were launched in 2006, and moved into orbiting positions at opposite sides of the sun on Sunday. NASA has combined images from each to capture, for the first time, a front-to-back view.

Violent outbursts of fiery gas occasionally spit out from the sun’s surface. These eruptions of matter, called coronal mass ejections, can disrupt satellites and power grids. Data from the two identical STEREO spacecraft will help scientists understand such events, along with other complicated solar weather patterns heading for earth and other planets.