Astronomers have invented a technique to see through the sun and view what is happening on its far side.
It will allow them to detect the development of damaging solar storms that will threaten the Earth when the sun rotates so they face us.
The sun spins once on its axis every 27 days and normally just the side facing Earth is visible.
The breakthrough was made by scientists at Stanford University, California, using a satellite called Soho, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, that continually watches the sun.
They discovered they could monitor seismic activity inside the sun using a technique similar to the ultrasound that produces images of a fetus in a pregnant woman.
They found they could use sound waves to “watch” the development of hot gases bubbling up to the sun’s far side.
Team leader Professor Philip Scherrer said: “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.
“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.”
The discovery comes amid warnings that Earth is set to be buffeted by some of the worst solar storms for 50 years.
Astronomers have issued a “severe weather warning” with lasts of radiation up to 50 per cent stronger than the sun’s last “hurricane season”.
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.