Sun Shines for NASA Probe

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: After combing over a year's worth of data from the Solar Heliospheric Observatory satellite, NASA today unveils startling photos that may help scientists unravel some of the sun's most perplexing mysteries. Among the satellite's more intriguing revelations: pictures that may help astronomers predict solar storms, which disrupt satellite communications and blow out power grids on earth.

TIME science correspondent Dick Thompson explains: "With the help of SOHO, scientists may now have a handle on when and where solar storms will occur. The end result is that satellites, power stations and astronauts can be better warned and protected." Budget concerns, however, may force NASA to pull the plug on the satellite. Thompson says they couldn't have picked a worse time to flick the switch: The sun is about to go into solar maximum, its most violent period and the most scientifically useful.