DEC 27, 2016 8:50 AM PST

SDO Spies Massive Coronal Hole in the Sun in Time for Christmas

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

At the beginning of December, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) discovered an excessively-large coronal hole about the size of 50 Earths on the Sun’s surface while spying on the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light wavelengths.

The following video was published in a NASA press release showing the large coronal hole coming around from the left side of the Sun:

At first, hearing the words "coronal hole" the may sound pretty scary, but they aren’t really that big of a deal at all as they’re a natural part of the Sun’s life cycle.

A coronal hole is essentially a dark spot that forms in the outermost layer of the Sun, known as the corona; they aren't actual holes. They appear dark in X-ray images from telescopes because they’re much cooler than other parts of the surface of the Sun, and that darkness is why they’re referred to as coronal “holes.”

Scientists understand that the Sun’s magnetic field isn’t as strong as it normally is in regions where coronal holes are spotted, so you can consider the dark spots the weak points in the Sun’s magnetic field. These weak areas tend to spew out streams of charged particles into space, which is commonly known as a solar wind.

Because the recently-observed coronal hole is quite vast in size compared to the usual ones we see, there was quite a bit of concern that the Earth would become bombarded with a very high amount of solar wind, which is concerning considering that it’s been known to knock out electronics and expose us to more radiation than normal.

Although our magnetic field protects us from the bulk of this solar wind, and the thick atmosphere deals with almost all of the rest of it, we currently understand that there’s a crack in the Earth’s magnetic field, which may be letting some of the charged particles through our natural barrier.

The Earth was bombarded with the charged particles that make up the solar winds just in time for Christmas, which reportedly stirred up huge geomagnetic storms in the Northern hemisphere, known more colloquially as the Northern lights or the Aurora Borealis.

An image of the Aurora Borealis kicking up from solar winds interacting with the Earth's magnetic field.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Activity of these beautiful sights are said to have been much more intense than they usually are thanks to the vast amounts of solar storm material bombarding Earth this time around. You can bet they attracted a bevy of tourists who wanted to get a closer look in person.

Source: NASA via Solar Dynamics Observatory

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why Some Astronauts Get Blurry Vision After Spaceflight
OCT 21, 2020
Why Some Astronauts Get Blurry Vision After Spaceflight
Researchers from the University of Antwerp in Belgium have found that the fluid surrounding the brain, known as craniosp ...
OCT 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why Do Galaxies Come in Different Shapes?
OCT 22, 2020
Why Do Galaxies Come in Different Shapes?
When looking it galaxies, it takes little to realize that they come in different shapes- whether they're swirling bl ...
NOV 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
NOV 06, 2020
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
Researchers have found that there could be at least 300 million habitable worlds in the Milky Way galaxy. This could mea ...
DEC 15, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Spiders Build Webs in Space
DEC 15, 2020
Spiders Build Webs in Space
As humans have ventured into space, they have carried some terrestrial life with them, including spiders. Once dreamed u ...
JAN 20, 2021
Space & Astronomy
A Cotton-Candy Planet That's Unique in Many Ways
JAN 20, 2021
A Cotton-Candy Planet That's Unique in Many Ways
In 2017, a giant exoplanet called WASP-107b was discovered orbiting a star called WASP-107, which is around 212 light ye ...
FEB 20, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Mars Perseverance Rover Gets Ready to Find Life on Mars
FEB 20, 2021
Mars Perseverance Rover Gets Ready to Find Life on Mars
NASA scientists have confirmed that their car-sized Perseverance Mars rover is 'healthy' following its arrival o ...
Loading Comments...