Coronal holes shoot solar winds into space that can damage satellites and produce stunning aurorae if they reach Earth.
Scientists aren’t concerned about damage to infrastructure, but they say the hole could be contributing to the occurrence of the aurora borealis in some parts of the world. Here’s why.
The hole is close to the solar equator
Coronal holes are very common, but they usually appear near the sun’s poles, where winds are being thrown into space.
“However, since the sun is preparing for its peak activity, which occurs approximately every 11 years, these holes are more likely to occur near the sun’s equator,” said Matthew Owens, professor of space physics at the University of Reading.
“The fact that this hole is at the equator means that we are guaranteed that a few days after it crosses the central meridian, there will be high-speed winds on Earth,” he told Insider.
The solar wind can be very fast, with speeds of more than 800 kilometers per second, said Daniel Verscharn, associate professor of space physics and climate at University College London. This is about 2.9 million kilometers per hour.
The shape of this coronal hole is not unusual. However, its location makes it very interesting,” he told Insider.
“I expect high-speed winds from this coronal hole to reach Earth from Friday evening to Saturday,” he added.
Coronal holes allow the solar wind to escape from the sun more easily
The sun is a giant ball of plasma. This plasma travels from the sun’s interior to its surface, creating magnetic fields that shift and change, collide and unite.
According to NASA, a coronal hole forms when these magnetic fields shoot straight into space. This allows the solar wind, bits of plasma coming from the sun, to escape into space at high speed.
These regions are usually much cooler and less dense than the hot, swirling plasma around them, which explains why they appear as darker spots in images of the Sun.
If these magnetic lines were pointing toward Earth, winds would hit our atmosphere.
“If they’re pointing south, we have a better chance of space weather, but we don’t know that yet,” Verscharen said.
Aurora may be brighter, but not as bright as last week
When these winds interact with our charged atmosphere, they can make the Northern Lights even brighter. But don’t expect to see them in Florida.
When the sky exploded in a luminous aurora last week that was spotted as far away as Arizona, it wasn’t just the coronal hole that caused it.
It just so happened that several coronal mass ejections, huge eruptions of plasma ejected into space, occurred at the same time that the hole was pointing toward Earth, causing a huge geomagnetic storm, which is why the impact was so powerful.
See also: The sun will be more active. A number of unpleasant and amazing consequences await us
Experts say this coronary perforation is unlikely to happen again. This is frustrating for aurora fans, but it’s potentially good news for planetary defense as powerful geomagnetic storms can cause damage to satellites, infrastructure and radio signals.
“I doubt it would cause much excitement unless there was a mass ejection aimed at Earth at the same time,” Owens said.
However, it is always difficult to accurately predict space weather.
“We’re way behind in our ability to project and predict space weather,” Versharen said.
“This is why we work so hard to understand space weather, with the help of theoretical physics, plasma simulations on supercomputers, and cutting-edge observations from state-of-the-art spacecraft, such as the joint ESA-NASA Solar Orbiter mission,” he added. .
The text above is a reprint from the US version of Insider, which was entirely prepared by the local editorial staff.
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