Large 'Hole' in The Sun Will Cause a Geomagnetic Storm and Flashier Auroras

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 - 8:29PM
Space
Sun
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 - 8:29PM
Large 'Hole' in The Sun Will Cause a Geomagnetic Storm and Flashier Auroras
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NASA/SDO
Looks like our sun has a hole in it again. It's a little too cosmically enormous to patch up, and it'll eventually go away, but Earth could feel some interesting side effects until that happens.

To clarify, in case there's anyone who's picturing the sun popping like a giant balloon, a coronal "hole" is created when a chunk of the sun's magnetic field opens up and has direct contact with interplanetary space, sending solar materials shooting out in what's called a solar wind. Solar winds can be dangerous, and often lead to geomagnetic storms when they hit Earth, but what that typically means is just more auroras.

New data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory indicates that a recent tear in the sun's corona is big enough that the United States Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a geomagnetic storm warning set to last throughout tomorrow, although we could be dealing with the solar winds for the next several days.



It's listed as a G1 geomagnetic storm, which means it's only minor - which is good, as major storms could potentially lead to blackouts and massive disruptions in radio communications - so while their may be some minor hits to radio, the most prominent effect will be harmless and much bigger auroras. If you live in the northern United States in particular, now might be the time to go outside and take a look.

This is because auroras in general are caused by the collision of the sun's charged particles with Earth's magnetic field. Increased solar winds means more particles are slamming into Earth's atmosphere, and that means more flashing lights will show up in the sky.

There's still a lot we don't know about auroras, and we recently just found one that seemingly broke the rules scientists had previously established (that phenomenon was actually nicknamed "Steve" and it was slightly different from an aurora).

But we do know that they're harmless, and that should be the most we see from this current sun hole.


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