Eerie image of the ‘smiling’ sun captured by NASA
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the sun “smiling”. Seen in ultraviolet light, these dark spots are known as coronal holes and are areas where fast solar winds flow into space. (NASA)
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WASHINGTON – A NASA observatory captured what appeared to be a jack-o’-lantern-like smile on the sun’s surface, showing what are actually spots on the sun’s surface that are cooler than surrounding areas.
The image, taken by NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory, was shared by the space agency on social media last week and sparked a flurry of comments that weighed on what the pattern of jagged dark spots looked like.
The official Twitter account of NASA’s Heliophysics Department simply called it a “smilingsun, as the United Kingdom’s Science and Technology Facilities Council weighed in on photoshop a pumpkin into the picture and turns it into a jack-o’-lantern.
However, the dark areas that make up the facial pattern are so-called coronal holes, which appear as irregular black spots when the sun is imaged in ultraviolet light or certain types of X-rays, according to the space agency.
Coronal holes are not as hot as the surrounding areas and are not as dense, making them appear darker. They can appear on the solar surface at any time.
Their magnetic field structure also allows for coronal holes to release streams of solar wind or charged particles at speeds of more than 1 million miles per hour. These winds are powerful enough to reach Earth. of our planet magnetic field, acting as a shield, deflects much of the solar wind’s activity, but can disrupt the atmosphere.
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, routinely captures such images of the sun and monitors its activity almost continuously. Launched in 2010, the orbiting observatory is part of the space agency’s Living With a Star program, which aims to analyze how solar activity affects our home planet and the space between Earth and our home star.
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