Watch: NASA Finds a Massive Hole in the Sun

Thursday, 14 July 2016 - 12:19PM
Space
Sun
Thursday, 14 July 2016 - 12:19PM
Watch: NASA Finds a Massive Hole in the Sun
There's no need for any doomsday predictions, but NASA has just found a huge hole growing on the Sun. Every once in a while, the Sun develops a visible dark patch in its corona, or outer atmosphere, and now the phenomenon has been captured in a nifty animation:



On July 11, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured photos that look like the beginning of a Sunshine-esque apocalyptic movie, in which a huge and apparently spreading dark spot can be seen on our Sun. But it's nothing to worry about, since these coronal holes are the result of run-of-the-mill properties of the Sun's magnetic field. The dark patch represents low-density areas where the magnetic field opens into interplanetary space, so the solar wind sends much of its hot plasma into space. As a result, it emits much less radiation than other areas, causing it to appear as a dark spot.

For the above video, Tom Yulsman of Discover Magazine put together an an animation using a series of NASA images of the Sun in ultraviolet light, which highlight the coronal hole. According to NASA, these holes can take over up to a quarter of the surface, and are most common in the years following solar maximum--the period of greatest solar activity in the Sun's 11-year activity cycle--the last of which was in 2014.
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