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Coronal Hole In Sun 2013: NASA Finds Dark Spot Covering Nearly A Quarter Of The Star, Leaks Solar Material Into Space

By Staff Reporter | July 30, 2013 03:26 PM EDT

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A NASA space telescope has spotted a giant coronal hole in the sun. The dark spot covers almost a quarter of Earth's closest star, and is shooting solar material and gas into space.

The hole in the solar atmosphere is over the sun's north pole. The dark spot came into view between July 13 and 18 and was observed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.

The hole was releasing violent blasts of solar wind and spewing out solar particles at around 500 miles per second, The Daily Mail reports.

Coronal holes are darker, cooler regions of the sun's atmosphere, or corona, containing little solar material. Coronal holes can affect space weather, as they send solar particles streaming off the sun about three times faster than the slower wind unleashed elsewhere from the sun's atmosphere, according to a description from NASA.

"While it's unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere," NASA's Karen Fox at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., explained in an image description.

The sun's activity cycle is currently ramping up toward what is known as solar maximum, predicted for late 2013 - during which time the number of coronal holes decreases.

During solar maximum, the magnetic fields on the sun reverse and new coronal holes appear near the poles with the opposite magnetic alignment. 

Tagged :  NASA, world news

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