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Massive coronal hole on the Sun is more than 50 Earths across

Leave it to NASA to take an amazing photo of the Sun. Using the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA has obtained a stunning photo of a humongous coronal hole on the Sun.

How big? The space agency says that the coronal hole is more than 50 Earths across. It certainly isn’t difficult to spot in the picture. This coronal hole is located in the upper left side of the SDO’s image.

Coronal holes were first seen in fantastic detail in pictures snapped by astronauts traveling on board the Skylab space station in the 1970s. Coronal holes are created when the Sun’s magnetic field opens up to interplanetary space. The outflow of material causes a region of the solar corona to become less dense and cooler than its environment.

NASA says that this coronal hole is about 400,000 miles across. It’s also spewing out solar wind that is traveling at approximately 400-500 miles per second, which is twice the speed of the normal solar wind that flows from the Sun into the solar system.

Now, astronomers know a little bit more about coronal holes than they did before they were imaged in excellent detail in the 1970s. They know that both the size and number of coronal holes is linked to the Sun’s solar cycle. When the solar cycle nears its maximum, the coronal holes are closer to the Sun’s poles.

More recently,¬†NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spotted an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection. According to the space agency, a CME is a solar event that can eject billions of tons of particles into space than can impact Earth several days later. While these particles are unable to make their way through the atmosphere to impact humans, they can affect space-based and ground-based communications systems.

What do you think of this photo? Share your thoughts in the comments section.