But what it seems a scrub daddy sponge setting fire may not be as cute as it seems. For us here on Earth, the sun emoji could produce a beautiful aurora sighting – or it could signal problems for the planet’s telecommunications systems.
The sun is, in essence, “the largest nuclear reactor in our solar system,” he said. Brian Keating, professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. There’s a flurry of action going on every second in the huge, spinning, glowing ball of hot gas, from the conversion of hydrogen into helium, which gives off the same amount of heat as several nuclear bombs, to thunderstorms and solar earthquakes.
Some of that solar activity was photographed by NASA’s satellite on Wednesday, Keating told The Washington Post.
In the image, the trio of patches that make up the “face,” which cannot be seen with human eyes because they are in the ultraviolet spectrum, are what are known as coronal holes, or slightly cooler sections of the outer shell of the sun. , which usually has a temperature of about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We’re talking a few hundred degrees, so it’s not like a ski resort,” Keating said. “But because they’re so dark and because we’re looking at it in ultraviolet radiation, which the human eye can’t see, the [NASA satellite] see them as dark holes.
Coronal holes are not only interesting shapes that move around the surface of the sun. They are areas of high magnetic field activity that constantly send solar wind, or a stream of protons, electrons, and other particles, out into the universe.
“More than a smiling face, their eyes are like bright laser beams that send out particles that can cause serious disruptions to Earth’s atmosphere,” Keating said.
When the particles, which carry electrical charge, hit the planet in small dose, colored auroras it could go on, bringing brilliant displays caused by gases in the atmosphere interacting with burping bursts of energy from the sun. Problems arise if a large number of tiny particles hit Earth, Keating said. Instead of being absorbed by the Earth’s magnetic field, they could be picked up by radio antennas and disrupt radio, television and other communication channels. A severe solar storm could even damage power grids and lead to power outages, Keating added.
Weather Images of a smiling sun have been captured before, for example in 2013 after “ate a comet” or in 2014 when NASA named it “Pumpkin Sun”— the worst-case scenario Keating described hasn’t happened in nearly two centuries. The last intense geomagnetic storm that affected the Earth so much was the Carrington event of 1859which caused fires in several telegraph stations when auroras appeared in tropical regions.
A massive event like that is long overdue, he said.
“Scientists expect that to happen on average, with a two percent chance, every year, and we’ve dodged all these magnetic bullets for so long,” Keating said. “Then it could be really scary, and the consequences could be much more dramatic, especially in our current technology-dependent society.”
Particles from the sun from the latest smile event may reach Earth just in time for the spookiest night of the year.
“There could be something on the way for Halloween night, after all,” Keating said. “Pretty creepy, but hopefully not too creepy.”
The Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a minor geomagnetic storm watch on Saturday, warning that conditions could change from “unstable” to “active.” Outbreaks from coronal holes are expected to continue through Wednesday.
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