New images released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show an enormous hole in the Sun, which is approximately 50 times larger than Earth.
The photographs were captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at an ultraviolet wavelength, and date from October 10. According to scientists, it appears that the mind-blowing spectacle actually shows a high-speed solar wind current, whose incredible power ejected “coronal material” into space.
The shadowy region located at the top of the celestial body is actually the coronal hole, an area where the Sun’s magnetic field enters in contact with interplanetary space.
As researchers added, “The image was taken in wavelengths of 193 Angstroms, which is invisible to our eyes and is typically colorized in bronze”.
Normally, the sun’s corona (outermost layer of plasma that surrounds it) is colder, lower-density and darker, and it also has lower magnetic field. Also, since its composition isn’t entirely homogeneous, the corona constantly changes its shape and patterns.
Coronal holes appear especially at the poles and lower latitudes, as charged particles and plasma are displaced by solar wind. This is a normal occurrence particularly when the sun’s activity is at a lower point, throughout its 11-year cycle.
Therefore, even though they might look terrifying and apocalyptic, such events are in fact relatively frequent and natural, and they pose no threat to human beings.
The celestial show is still impressing, as the gigantic coronal hole that gaped on the solar surface is in fact approximately 50 times the size of Earth.
Also, it is believed that this phenomenon did have certain effects on our planet. More precisely, as the exceptionally fast stream burst from the Sun at approximately 500 miles per second, the speeding magnetic particles collided with the Earth’s magnetosphere ( the region of space dominated by our planet’s magnetic field).
Basically, the impact caused geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances that appear as the solar wind shock wave interacts with the magnetosphere.
Normally, these events occur as a result of coronal mass ejection (CME), that takes place as solar material clouds explode. However, geomagnetic storms triggered by solar wind streams are also common, especially when solar activity is near its minimum and CMEs are less prevalent.
As agency space physicists explain, as charged particles zoomed past the magnetic field, they reached the upper atmosphere (exosphere and thermosphere).
In a brilliant display of light and color, the impact between these particles and air molecules has caused several auroras to show up on the night sky, particularly around the Arctic Circle.
For instance, a photograph posted by NASA on October 8 showed the northern lights, as captured by a photographer in Harstad, Norway.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center had also declared that auroras might even be seen from Oregon, Iowa and Pennsylvania, but the prediction proved incorrect.
Also, the geomagnetic storm has caused certain perturbations, related to high-altitude radio communication and satellite navigation. It appears that the auroras and geomagnetic storms will continue, as solar winds hold steady, and the coronal hole moves westward.
Image Source: NASA