It may be hard to believe, but our sun has a hole in it.
If you’ve noticed several auroras on Earth over the last week, now you know the cause. Scientists have attributed the light shows to the high amounts of solar winds that have been ejected from a massive dark hole that was recently observed on the surface of our sun, which was photographed via a camera on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 10.
The hole is known as a “coronal hole” do to its location on the sun’s corona, which is the outer most layer of the star. It is specifically located in the northern hemisphere and is colossal in size, having a diameter comparable to about 50 Earths. It is reportedly releasing solar winds at speeds reaching 500 miles per second.
The winds, which consist of a stream of charged particles (mostly protons, electron, and alpha particles), have caused a global geomagnetic storm watch to be issued for the latter half of the week, with forecasters keeping a close eye on the winds that are heading our way.
When the winds do hit Earth, they can be the source of beautiful auroras, such as Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. This and similar phenomena are created when solar winds hit Earth and interact with its magnetosphere, which in turn cause geomagnetic storms. The disturbances caused by these storms also have an effect on satellite and radio communications here in Earth.
The solar winds from this particular hole, like that of all coronal holes, are faster than usual. This can be attributed to an existence on relatively cooler areas of the sun. These areas generally possess a lower density and on average have a weaker magnetic field, which aids in the solar wind’s escape, making it easier for them to obtain higher speeds.
For now, it seems that the coronal hole poses no imminent threat to Earth, but scientists have yet to comment on the life span of this particular hole. Coronal holes, however, have been known to exsist for up to six months.