image

There were no fireworks on the sun to welcome in the New Year – and in fact, scientists say the end of the year was relatively quiet on the solar surface.

However, the sun has started 2015 with a mysterious event – a huge hole has appeared.

Known as a coronal hole, the phenomenon occurred near the south pole – and is seen as a dark area covered all of its base in these stunning images.

image

Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface – and eject solar winds far faster than other parts of the sun.

WHAT IS A CORONAL HOLE 

Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. 

Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. 

In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark.

The incredible image was  captured on Jan. 1, 2015 by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the coronal hole as a dark region in the south.

Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. 

Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. Those trapped particles can heat up and glow, giving us the lovely AIA images. 

In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark.

Coronal holes were first seen in images taken by astronauts on board NASA’s Skylab space station in 1973 and 1974. 

They can be seen for a long time, although the exact shape changes all the time. 

The polar coronal hole can remain visible for five years or longer. 

Each time a coronal hole rotates by the Earth we can measure the particles flowing out of the hole as a high-speed stream, another source of space weather.

Charged particles in the Earth’s radiation belts are accelerated when the high-speed stream runs into the Earth’s magnetosphere. 

The acceleration of particles in the magnetosphere is studied by NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission.

As Solar Cycle 24 fades, the number of flares each day will get smaller, but the coronal holes provide another source of space weather that needs to be understood and predicted.

Coronal holes are a typical feature on the sun, though they appear at different places and with more frequency at different times of the sun’s activity cycle.

The holes are important to our understanding of space weather, as they 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. 

While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere.

The material constantly flowing outward is called the solar wind, which typically ‘blows’ at around 250 miles (400 km) per second. 

When a coronal hole is present, though, the wind speed can double to nearly 500 miles (800 km) per second. 

Late last year one of Nasa’s most powerful space telescopes has turned its gaze on the Sun for the first time to capture this stunning image.

Nasa’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has produced the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

The mission is primarily designed to look at black holes and other objects far from our solar system.  

image

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission (green shows energies between 2 and 3 kiloelectron volts, and blue shows energies between 3 and 5 kiloelectron volts).

WHAT IT SHOWS 

The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission (green shows energies between 2 and 3 kiloelectron volts, and blue shows energies between 3 and 5 kiloelectron volts). 

The high-energy X-rays come from gas heated to above 3 million degrees.

The red channel represents ultraviolet light captured by SDO at wavelengths of 171 angstroms, and shows the presence of lower-temperature material in the solar atmosphere at 1 million degrees.

This image shows that some of the hotter emission tracked by NuSTAR is coming from different locations in the active regions and the coronal loops than the cooler emission shown in the SDO image. 

Written by Mark Prigg For Dailymail
Read more at Daily Mail

Leave a Reply