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The Sun Has Not 1, But 2 Giant Holes In It: What That Means For Planet Earth

Benzinga logo Benzinga 3/29/2023 Bibhu Pattnaik
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Coronal holes — areas on the Sun's corona, or outermost atmosphere — are not actual "holes." They're areas of lower density and temperature, where the magnetic field opens and allows hot plasma to stream out into space.

Just weeks after NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted the first coronal hole, a second giant coronal hole appeared and it could send about 1.8 million mph solar winds toward Earth by Friday.

According to a report by Business Insider, citing NASA, the hole is about 300,000 to 400,000 kilometers across (about 20 to 30 Earths lined up back-to-back). 

After the first coronal hole began rotating away from Earth, a new giant coronal hole appeared. 

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The high-speed solar winds can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth, which can interfere with satellite communications and power grids. However, scientists are currently not worried about this hole damaging any infrastructure.

It may, however, help trigger auroras in some parts of the world.

Coronal holes are typically associated with the Sun's polar regions. The fact that this one is at the equator means "we're pretty much guaranteed to see some fast wind at Earth," Mathew Owens, a professor of space physics at the University of Reading, told Insider.

The solar winds can blast at speeds of more than 800 kilometers per second, about 1.8 million miles per hour, per Daniel Verscharen, an associate professor of space and climate physics at University College London. 

"If it is oriented in the southward direction, we're more likely to have a space-weather event, but we don't know yet," Verscharen told Business Insider.

The latest spacecraft (i.e., the joint ESA-NASA mission Solar Orbiter) are expected to help NASA understand space weather and make "cutting-edge observations," he explained. 

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Image: Pixabay

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