News

Actions

Spacecraft sees giant ‘hole’ in the sun (video)

Default-Image_1280x720.png
Posted at 11:33 AM, Jul 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-29 11:34:47-04

NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory has spotted a giant ‘hole’ in the sun – a dark spot that covers nearly a quarter of the star and spews solar material and gas into space.

The so-called coronal hole over the sun’s north pole came into view between July 13 and 18 and was observed by SOHO, according to Space.com

Coronal holes are darker, cooler regions of the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, containing little solar material. In these gaps, magnetic field lines whip out into the solar wind rather than looping back to the sun’s surface. Coronal holes can affect space weather, as they send solar particles streaming off the sun about three times faster than the slower wind unleashed elsewhere from the sun’s atmosphere, according to a description from NASA.

“While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere,” NASA’s Karen Fox at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., explained in an image description.

These holes are not uncommon, but their frequency changes with the solar activity cycle. The sun is currently reaching its 11-year peak in activity, known as the solar maximum. Around the time of this peak, the sun’s poles switch their magnetism. The number of coronal holes typically decreases leading up to the switch.

Read more at Space.com