The hidden face of the sun is fully visible for the first time, thanks to a new technique developed at Stanford University.
This image shows two active regions crossing the solar east limb in November 2003. The right side, in yellow, are white light images showing sunspots. The left side (blue) shows the prediction of sunpots on the farside. Since the white light observations are images made "straight on", they are stretched into blurry lines when they are projected to show the view over the limb. This is simply because we do not have a camera above the east limb (yet).
Only half of the sun--the near side--is directly observable. The far side always faces away from Earth and is therefore out of view. But the new technology allows anyone with a computer to download images of the entire solar surface--an important advance with practical applications, say researchers, because potentially damaging solar storms that form on the far side now can be detected days, or even weeks, before they wreak havoc on Earth.
"Sunspots, solar flares and other active regions on the surface of the sun emit radiation that can interfere with orbiting satellites, telecommunications and power transmission," says Philip Scherrer, research professor in the Stanford Department of Physics. "This new method allows more reliable warning of magnetic storms brewing on the far side that could rotate with the sun and threaten the Earth."
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