The Sciences

A new "hole" in the Sun's atmosphere has sparked stunning displays of the northern lights here on Earth

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanJan 8, 2017 6:26 PM

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As the coronal hole rotated into view of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the spacecraft captured a video of what it looked like

Data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory were used to create this view of hole in the Sun's corona rotating across the face of the Sun in the first week of January 2016. (Source: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA) Ok, let's say it straight away: A "hole" in the Sun's corona is completely natural. It's just one of those things that happens from time to time. Even so, when it occurs, the results can be spectacular — on the Sun itself, as well as here on Earth. And it just happened. Again. The video above shows the Sun spinning on its axis and carrying an elongated coronal hole across its surface. It was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft between January 2nd and 5th. Down here on Earth, the consequences truly were stunning, as the following time-lapse video posted to Twitter documents. (Make sure to keep reading below it for even more imagery.) https://twitter.com/Adamhillstudios/status/817766367625506816

SEE ALSO: Here’s what the the northern lights look like from 512 miles up in space: glowing swirls of diaphanous fog

Coronal holes are areas where the Sun's magnetic field opens toward space. This greatly enhances the solar wind, which consists of high energy particles that constantly stream away from the corona. The enhanced wind of hot particles blowing into space can move at speeds approaching 2 million miles per hour. That's about twice the average velocity of the solar wind. With so much hot material blowing outward, a darkened area — a so-called "hole" — is left behind on the Sun. The SDO video shows what it looks like in extreme ultraviolet light. Here's a view in several wavelengths, with the Sun's magnetic field lines and the coronal hole demarcated: https://twitter.com/earthskyscience/status/816445886687547392 As the coronal hole rotated into a position facing Earth right around New Years, photographers got ready to record the auroras that often are triggered when the enhanced solar wind jostles the Earth's protective magnetic bubble. Here are some examples that were posted to Twitter — enjoy!: https://twitter.com/mark_tarello/status/816712518899007494 https://twitter.com/OurLapland/status/817725379230265346 https://twitter.com/keatinghs/status/817300370061869056

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