NASA has created an image of a ‘giant space pumpkin’.  Here’s the science behind the “smiling” sun.

NASA has created an image of a ‘giant space pumpkin’. Here’s the science behind the “smiling” sun.

NASA has created an image of a ‘giant space pumpkin’. Here’s the science behind the “smiling” sun.

This year’s Halloween spirit was out of this world. Ahead of the costume and candy-filled celebration, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an image of the sun “smiling” — an image one acclaimed cosmologist likened to a “smile.”giant space pumpkin.”

The image, which shows a glowing sun with two black holes atop another crescent-shaped “smile,” was captured on Oct. 26.

“These dark spots on the sun, seen in ultraviolet light, are known as coronal holes and are areas where fast solar winds gust into space,” NASA tweeted.

The cute image of the sun was certainly a treat, but it also came with tricks. The trio with coronal holes created a small geomagnetic storm watch on Saturday, with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center warning that the holes were expected to “enhance and disrupt the solar wind environment and lead to uncertain conditions.”

coronal holes, according to NASA, are areas of the sun that appear dark because they are cooler and less dense than surrounding regions and have open magnetic fields. These properties allow “currents of relatively fast solar wind” to escape more easily. The holes can develop at any time and any location on the sun, and the wind can cause geomagnetic storms, arranged on a scale from G1 (minor) to G5 (extreme), which have the power to disrupt energy and other systems on Earth while influencing spacecraft operations.

Even minor storms can cause “weak fluctuations in the power grid” and affect satellite operations and draft animals, according to the center. These storms also make the Northern Lights more visible further south.

In the most extreme storm, some grid systems can undergo a “complete collapse” and an aurora can be seen as far south as Florida and south Texas.

The “troublesome conditions” were expected to last through Wednesday, the center said last week. However, from Monday no geomagnetic storms or “significant transient or recurrent solar wind features” are expected. On Sunday, the center said there have been “no geomagnetic storms” in the past week.

The sun put on a similar Halloween-esque face in 2014, when NASA captured images of the sun that looked like a… creepy jack-o-lantern. The somewhat eerie glow coming from the sun was caused by areas that radiated more light and energy, nasa said: at the time.

halloweensun20142k.jpg
This image shows the sun shining like a lantern. Photo taken on October 8, 2014.

NASA/SDO






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