In what appears to be a new challenge for astronomers, a gigantic dark hole has been created on the surface of the sun and is releasing powerful streams of fast radiation, also called solar wind, right towards the Earth.
The temporary gap’s size and orientation, which is wider than 60 Earths, remains unprecedented at the solar cycle’s current stage, as per the scientists.
The sun’s giant dark patch, which is known as a coronal hole, appeared near the equator of the sun on December 2 and in 24 hours, it reached its maximum width of nearly 497,000 miles (800,000 kilometres), reported Spaceweather.com. Since December 4, the big void in the sun has been pointing directly at Earth.
Initially, it was predicted by the experts that this most recent hole could cause a moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm, which can trigger radio blackouts and the world may witness strong auroral displays for the next few days.
The solar wind, however, remained less intense than expected and hence, the resulting storm has only been weak (G1) till now, according to Spaceweather.com. However, there are formation of auroras is possible at high latitudes.
It remains unclear how long will take for the hole to disappear from the sun, however, as per previous records the coronal holes have remained for more than a single solar rotation (27 days), as per the NOAA. The hole, however, will soon rotate away from Earth
Why do coronal holes get created in the sun?
Coronal holes are created when the magnetic fields holding the sun in a place open up suddenly and cause content present in the upper surface of the sun to stream away in the form of solar wind, as per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Coronal holes look like dark patches on the sun because they are less dense and cooler in comparison to the surrounding plasma. This is equivalent to why sunspots appear to be black, however, unlike sunspots, one cannot see coronal holes unless they are viewed in ultraviolet light.
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According to NOOA, the radiation streams which are released from coronal holes are much faster in comparison to the normal solar wind and often lead to disturbances in the magnetic shield of the Earth, called as geomagnetic storms.
The last coronal hole, which was seen in March, had released the most powerful geomagnetic storm to have hit Earth in the last six years.
(With inputs from agencies)
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