MessageToEagle.com - The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured
this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun's north pole on July 18, 2013, at 9:06 a.m. EDT.
Coronal holes are dark, cold areas in the sun's outermost atmospheric layer.
They contain little solar material, have lower temperatures, and therefore, appear much darker than
Click on image to enlarge
The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun's north pole on July 18, 2013, at 9:06 a.m. EDT. Credit: ESA&NASA/SOHO
They are the sources of solar winds -- streams of charged particles that travel at more than 1 million mph
and can cause auroras and geomagnetic storms (worldwide disturbances of the Earth's magnetic field)
when they reach the Earth.
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 activity cycle is currently ramping up toward what is known
as solar maximum, currently predicted for late 2013.
During this portion of the cycle, the number of coronal holes decreases. During solar max, the magnetic
fields on the sun reverse and new coronal holes appear near the poles with the opposite magnetic alignment.
The coronal holes then increase in size and number, extending further from the poles as the sun moves toward
solar minimum again.
At such times, coronal holes have appeared that are even larger than this one.
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.
An extensive coronal hole has rotated into view over the past several days (July 13-18, 2013). It's one of
the largest coronal holes we have seen in some time.
The magnetic field lines in a coronal hole extend out into the solar wind rather than coming back down
to the Sun's surface as they do in other parts of the Sun. This image of particles heated to over 2
million degrees was taken in extreme UV light by SOHO.
The hotter the temperature, the more extended the features are in the outer solar atmosphere.
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