A Big Hole in the Sun’s Atmosphere

Dec. 6, 2018:  A large hole in the sun’s atmosphere is facing Earth and spewing a stream of solar wind in our direction. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring the structure, shown here in a false-color UV image taken on Dec. 6th:

The hole (technical term: “coronal hole”) is so large it almost completely bisects the solar disk, stretching more than a million km across the sun’s equator.

We’ve seen this coronal hole before. It has been spinning around with the sun, lashing Earth with solar wind approximately once a month since September. Last month, the lashing commenced on Nov. 9th, lasted for almost 3 days, and caused sharp tremors in the geomagnetic field. Solar winds blowing faster than 600 km/s sparked an explosion of Phoenix-shaped auroras over Norway:

“The display over Senja, Norway, on Nov. 11th was nothing short of magical,” recalls photographer Adrien Mauduit. “Huge colorful pillars took the shape of a fiery bird.”

The same stream of solar wind will return on Dec. 8th or 9th and it may be even more potent this time because the underlying coronal hole has hrown larger in the intervening month. Arctic sky watchers, mark your calendars and warm your cameras. The Phoenix might rise again. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

ZEN ASTRONAUT: Are the holidays stressing you out? Get your zen from the edge of space. On Dec. 2, 2018, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a cosmic ray balloon to the stratosphere. This meditating spaceman pendant went along for the ride:

The students are selling the pendants to support their ballooning program. You can have one for $129.95. They make great gifts for space fans and are guaranteed to soothe holiday stress. Each premium stainless steel pendant comes with a greeting card showing the astronaut in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space and back again.

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All sales support hands-on STEM education

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