Science & Tech

Giant "unprecedented" hole opens in the Sun unleashing a geomagnetic storm

Giant "unprecedented" hole opens in the Sun unleashing a geomagnetic storm

A Coronal Hole Just Opened Up On the Sun and Unleashed a …

ZMG - Amaze Lab / VideoElephant

The sun is spewing solar wind right at the Earth after an enormous dark hole opened up in the sun's surface. With scientists calling this temporary gap unprecedented at this stage of the solar cycle.

On December 2, the dark hole - known as a coronal hole - took shape near the sun's equator.

Within 24 hours it reached its maximum width of roughly 497,000 miles (800,000 kilometres), according to Since Dec. 4, the coronal hole has been pointing directly at Earth.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coronal holes occur when the magnetic fields that hold the sun in place suddenly open up.

This causes the contents of the sun's upper surface to stream away in the form of solar wind. Coronal holes appear as dark patches because they are cooler and less dense than the surrounding plasma, but are not visible unless viewed in ultraviolet light.

It was initially expected that the hole could spark a moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm, which could trigger radio blackouts and strong auroral displays. However, the solar wind has been less intense than predicted. Although at high latitudes, auroras are still possible.

Solar activity has been ramping up this year as the sun nears its solar maximum - the explosive peak in its roughly 11 year solar cycle. Despite this, the new coronal hole is not supposed to be part of this increase in solar activity as they are usually more common during solar minimum. When they do emerge during a solar maximum, they are normally located near the sun's poles, rather than the equator.

In the past, previous coronal holes have lasted for more than a single solar rotation (27 days), but it is unclear how long this hole will remain in the sun.

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