Humanity has always taken the star at the center of the Solar System for granted. The nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma is what helps maintain life on Earth. Without the Sun, there would be no photosynthesis in plants and humanity would perish along with it. The Sun, which is about 109 times the size of Earth, is the most important source of energy for life. According to scientists, in around 7.5 billion years from now, the red giant will engulf our planet as well as the rest of the solar system. For now, that is not our main concern.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory identified the huge hole in the Sun, measuring an estimated 75,000 miles wide.
The elongated coronal hole, as you can see in the picture above, stretches across the face of the sun. It resulted in solar wind particles gushing toward Earth. Although the geomagnetic storm was small compared to previous ones, it was still strong enough to knock out satellites and power grids. The space agency dubbed the hole as AR2665.
If the coronal hole spews particles towards the Earth, the Earth’s magnetosphere interacts with it and will create a visible aurora. But at the same time, it could cause some serious problems. The solar winds released from the corona can form geomagnetic storms, which affects satellites and its functionalities. These gases are known to travel faster than solarwinds.
Sunspots are cooler areas on the star’s surface (caused by interactions with the Sun’s magnetic field). However, this specific sunspot is estimated to be approximately 50 Earths wide. Experts at Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory explain that it is too early to predict the behavior of the sunspot.
According to NASA,
“A new sunspot group has rotated into view and seems to be growing rather quickly. It is the first sunspot to appear after the sun was spotless for two days, and it is the only sunspot group on the sun at this moment. It could be the source for some solar flares, but it is too early to predict just what it will do.”
NASA also released a timelapse video showing the growth of the spot as it rotates into view over a 42-hour period.
The coronal hole that opened up in the surface, allowed solar wind particles to come streaming out.
“In this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, it appears as a dark area near the center and lower portion of the sun.”
Although it caused disturbance with the satellite and power grids, it also brought a greater chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis in Canada, northern US, Scandinavia, Scotland and even England.
Since the sunspot was directly facing our planet, forecasters from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicted a 25 percent chance of seeing M-class flares this week. According to NOAA,
“The principal users affected by geomagnetic storms are the electrical power grid, spacecraft operations, users of radio signals that reflect off of or pass through the ionosphere, and observers of the aurora.”
But, the solar flares were considered to be at a low classification, which means that the interference will only be minor.