Talk about big!
A dark hole hundreds of times bigger than the Earth has been spotted on the surface of the sun. A photo of the enormous “coronal hole”(below) was snapped by a camera aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Jan. 1, 2015.
The irregularly shaped hole spans about 400,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) at its widest point, said Dr. C. Alex Young, associate director for science for the heliophysics division at the space agency’s Goddard facility in Greenbelt, Maryland. Its total surface area is about 410 times that of the Earth, he said (see below for size comparison).
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This Jan. 3, 2015 photo combines three wavelengths of light and includes images of the Earth and Jupiter to give a sense of the size of the coronal hole.
Coronal holes were first seen in photos taken by NASA astronauts in the 1970s. They aren’t holes in the usual sense. Rather, they’re colder, cooler regions where the sun’s magnetic field reaches out into space. The holes can remain visible for five years or longer, according to NASA.
This isn’t the only spectacular photo of the sun issued by NASA in recent weeks. Last December, the agency released this eye-popping X-ray portrait of the sun.