The smiling Sun will hurl solar flares at nearly 2 million miles an hour

The Earth is in the firing line for some intense solar winds.
Ameya Paleja
NASA shares image of smiling Sun
NASA shares image of smiling Sun


As most of us head into this weekend with plans of a fun-filled Halloween, the single star of our solar system, the Sun, seems to have something sinister planned. On Thursday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) caught the Sun "smiling" and warned us about some rough space weather ahead.

As the Sun slowly approaches its solar maximum, activity on the solar surface has begun to rise. Astronomers have been closely analyzing the events occurring on the solar surface as the Sun's flips its poles as part of its 11-year-cycle.

While most events have been witnessed and captured by astronomers before, there is always something new to observe and learn, just like a smile, this time around. As NASA noted in the tweet above, the smile-like presentation is the result of coronal holes in a coincidental formation on the Sun.

What are coronal holes?

The intense activity on the Sun results in large magnetic fields on its surface. At times, some of these magnetic fields concentrate in certain areas and abruptly cause convection to stop. This reduces the surface temperature of the region, which then appear darker when observed from the Earth and is referred to as sunspots.

The smile seen on the solar surface is also the result of three darker areas. However, these are not sunspots but are called coronal holes. Unlike sunspots whose magnetic fields loop back onto themselves, coronal holes are open magnetic field line structures that allow solar winds to readily escape. These outbursts can have speeds of nearly two million miles ( 3 million km) an hour, reported.

As Interesting Engineering has previously reported, when the ejects out intense radiation, it is called a solar flare. At times, it also sends out vast amounts of a particular matter, which is referred to as coronal mass ejection (CME). Both of these ejections interact with the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm.

Geomagnetic storm from smiling Sun

With the Earth in the firing line of these coronal holes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. has warned of a low-intensity, G1-class geomagnetic storm on Saturday, October 28.

G1-class geomagnetic storms are the least worrisome of the possible outcomes from rough space weather. They usually result in only minor fluctuations to the power grid and end up increasing the chances of auroras at the poles.

So, if you are keen to look at an inverted pumpkin in the skies this weekend, rush to a solar observatory that has the necessary equipment to help you observe the Sun from up close and in a safe manner.

Guess the Sun is also enjoying the festivities this year.

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