A spacecraft from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) finds a massive, dark hole growing on the surface of our sun. While photos could send shivers down one's spine, thinking of disasters, data show that the massive hole is no cause for alarm.
The hole on the sun's surface is actually an astronomical event that appears on the star's atmosphere every now and then. It is called the coronal hole and according to the U.S. space agency, these holes are indicators of low-density areas where the star's magnetic field opens up to the interplanetary space.
The phenomenon allows hot material escape and speed outward from the corona, leaving the areas with much less plasma dim compared to their brighter, hotter surroundings. From Earth, the spots look much darker as if a hole is growing on the sun's surface.
"Coronal holes are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere," said NASA. These dark spots can last for weeks, even months at a time. It can grow and cover as much as 25 percent of the Sun's surface.
Tom Yulsman from Discover's ImaGeo created a short animation that features the massive hole growing on the surface of the sun. Yulsman used a series of photos released by NASA.
It might be scary to look at, after all, it seems as if the massive dark hole is eating up the sun. This brings some people to fear that the sun may be shutting down. But the sun's coronal hole should not be a cause for alarm because it is a natural, astronomical phenomenon.
However, the coronal hole can still bring some minor problems for folks back on Earth. The solar winds speeding outward from the sun's corona can form solar storms.
These storms can then affect the Earth's radio communications and satellite systems. During geomagnetic storms, the ionosphere changes can also affect Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and high-frequency radio communications.
"During polar cap absorption events caused by solar protons, radio communications can be compromised for commercial airliners on transpolar crossing routes," explained NASA.
Space explorations can also be affected by such events. In worst cases, astronauts who become exposed to solar particle radiation can reach their allowed exposure limits in just hours following the start of the event. Space weather storms also affect communications spanning across surface-to-surface and surface-to-orbit.