The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission is providing spectacular 3D movies of the Sun. STEREO was successfully launched on a Delta-2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on October, 26th 2006.
The Stereo mission is being used to study violent eruptions from the Sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The eruptions create huge clouds of energetic particles that can trigger magnetic storms, disrupting power grids and satellite communications.
At the moment because solar observatories, like SoHO, look at the Sun straight on, scientists have great difficulty in determining the speed and direction of a CME.
The STEREO mission has placed two identical spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, each of which will drift away from the Earth at a rate of 22 degrees per year, providing our first 3-D view of the Sun. By placing two spacecraft in orbit to look at the Sun-Earth system from two widely-spaced locations, scientists will be able look at a CME from both sides to work out how fast it is moving and whether it is going to hit the Earth.