There’s a giant hole in the sun — and here’s what it means

There’s a giant hole in the sun — and here’s what it means

A massive hole has formed on the surface of the sun, and it's causing some interesting stuff here on Earth.

We recently reported on an epically huge hole that has opened up on the surface of the sun — and a few days later, it’s still there, and will probably be there for a while.

The hole is so big, in fact, it could gobble up 50 Earths. It is located on the topmost layer of the sun called the “corona,” and it has torn through the magnetic field and is blasting out particles at hundreds of miles per second — and some are headed toward Earth.

Scientists say this hole is going to be there for a while, expelling supercharged particles in all directions. So what does this mean for us? A few things.

This hole will be sending large volumes of particles into space in what are known as coronal mass ejections. A large chunk of these supercharged particles will be aimed straight at Earth, and when they arrive, they collide with our powerful magnetic field and atmosphere, and all sorts of havoc ensues in the form of geomagnetic storms.

For us on Earth, we may not notice anything at all. But these storms cause all kinds of problems for satellites and for radios.

But it’s not all bad. These coronal mass ejections also result in a spectacular light show that we know as the “Northern Lights.” This is what happens when the particles interact with our atmosphere, resulting in particle ionization and therefore brilliant shimmering lights.

Because these lights involve the interaction between the sun’s particles and our magnetic field, that is why the Northern Lights are typically only viewable near to the poles, particularly the Arctic Circle. However, some geomagnetic storms are so powerful that they can be viewed in parts of the United States. Scientists thought this would be one of them, but as it turns out that is not the case.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a description of geomagnetic storms which can be found here.

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