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The Sciences

Oh NO! A Square Hole in the Sun?

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanMay 15, 2014 5:48 AM


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Okay. Relax. This. Is. Completely. Normal. Even if a bit strange. The Sun developed a square hole in its corona — it's extended outer atmosphere — starting around May 4. The video above, based on data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, shows its evolution over the course of two days. In case you were wondering, you're looking at the Sun in the extreme ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which reveals these holes-in-the-sun quite effectively. Coronal holes can occur in areas where the Sun's magnetic field is open to space. This allows particles to escape. We're talking more than a boatload of particles. The word "gargantuan" doesn't even suffice. They escape in the form of high-speed solar winds blowing out into space. When they head our way, they can cause geomagnetic storms — disturbances to the Earth's magnetosphere. These can be bad. Sometimes very, very bad. If strong enough, a geomagnetic storm can damage satellites and power grids, and cause significant disruption to radio communications. But not to worry. This squareish coronal hole was so far south on the Sun that there was very little chance that the solar wind streaming out from it would hit us. It sure is cool though.

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