I don’t want to scare anyone, but I am worried. For someone with no astrophysics background other than what Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson taught me, my apprehension is the coronal hole discovered a week ago on the Sun. I am not concerned that this coronal hole will kill off humankind like the Chicxulub asteroid ended the dinosaurs on Earth ca. 66 million years ago.
Last Monday, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted a coronal hole on our Sun. Alex Young, one of the directors at NASA’s Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division, said, “The current coronal hole, the big one right now, is about 300,000 to 400,000 kilometers across. That is about 20-30 Earths lined up back-to-back.” This coronal hole is a quarter million-mile-wide hole. These holes or openings are in the magnetic field of the Sun. When a hole is created, it emits high-speed solar winds that rush out of the Sun’s atmosphere. The coronal hole that Young mentioned is the dark area of this photo.
There are other names for coronal holes based on the knowledge of astrophysicists. This coronal hole is called Big Bird from Sesame Street.
Initially, that rattled me. How can the Sun create a hole, and why wasn’t the whole just filled in with fiery gaseous plasma? If you drop a rock into a lake, you will create a hole for a nanosecond before the rest of the water fills in the hole. I’m apparently missing some fundamental part of astrophysics.
This is a video of the Sun rotating on its axis. As the Sun rotates, a coronal hole can ebb and flow for as much as half a year, which affects Earth’s weather. Those with even one college astrophysics class know the corona hole is seen as “the dark side of solar activity.” The dark side events adversely affect our weather.
The solar winds are at warp speed. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), solar winds can reach 1.3 million mph. Astrophysicists predict the solar winds will arrive at the beginning of this week.
Young said that we will start to be affected by this past weekend, but when the full force arrives, “...the particles and the magnetic field it carries will interact with Earth’s magnetic field, effectively rattling it or like ringing a bell.” I’m unclear what ringing a bell means, but that term doesn’t seem positive. Coronal holes will cause problems with world power grids, not to mention rattling satellites whirling around the Earth.
However, the aurora borealis is a brighter aspect of the coronal holes. The following are two time-lapse videos of the northern lights.
So, what is the takeaway from this essay about the coronal hole? In the grand scheme of things, humans aren’t at the top of importance. We can’t control anything thing in the universe. That should be sobering to us. We need to determine what is important in our personal universe and carpe diem. We must reach out to each other and assist them on their journey down their yellow brick roads. It is in giving that we get.
PS The following photos were taken just before this essay was posted. We experienced a hailstorm for ten minutes.
This is CNN’s weather forecast for this weekend and the beginning of next week.