What’s up with that huge dark hole in the Sun?

By Tom Yulsman | July 11, 2016 10:48 am

Not to worry, everything’s under control

An animation of images of the Sun acquired by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft on July 11, 2016 highlights a dark area covering the top of the Sun known as a "coronal hole." (Source: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory)

An animation of images of the Sun acquired by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft on July 11, 2016 highlights a dark area, called a “coronal hole,” covering the top of the Sun. In the animation, the Sun is seen in extreme ultraviolet light. This highlights the atmosphere —the Sun’s corona. Hot, active regions are bright. The dark coronal hole is an area where very little radiation is being emitted. (Source: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory)

Every once in awhile, the Sun develops a huge “hole” — a dark patch in its outer atmosphere, or corona, like the one visible above.

This is the Sun, as seen today by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

I’ve posted about these coronal holes before, but I really like this animation, as well as the one below offering a visualization of what’s actually going on.

SEE ALSO: The Sun blows its top — again 

A coronal hole is a place where where the Sun’s magnetic field opens out into interplanetary space, allowing hot material from the corona to speed outward. As a result, these areas have very little hot plasma compared to their hotter, brighter surroundings. So they appear much darker.

Solar coronal hole and magnetic field lines

This video clip shows the Sun as seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft on June16, 2016. A map of the Sun’s magnetic field is overlaid on the SDO video.

In the animation above, acquired by the SDO spacecraft on June 16th, the Sun is once again seen in extreme ultraviolet light, highlighting the corona. A coronal hole is evident here too. This animation also adds a map of the Sun’s magnetic field lines.

Those lines are tightly bundled near the brighter active regions in the corona. Here, the Sun’s magnetic field is particularly intense. Meanwhile, the magnetic lines from the coronal hole clearly open out into space, allowing hot particles to stream outward.

The result: a relatively cool, dark “hole.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Stars, Sun, Top Posts
  • iamstopper

    You must be mistaken or employed by “big oil”, don’t you know that the science is settled? Man has caused global warming! End of story. Any other explanations will not pass muster and must be attacked. Next you’ll tell me that there really has been a 17 year period with no warming…..

    • alohamgm

      prove it

      • iamstopper

        Satire not your bag baby?

    • Blu. Blood

      You are an idiot

      • iamstopper

        Someone upset the alarmist’s claims have been proven false? Upset the models were incredibly and absolutely wrong? Care to rebut with facts? Or do you just name call and slink away back to you hole?

        • OWilson

          You touched a nerve!

          You questioned a religion!

          That’s a no no.! :)

          Here come the trolls!

          • Ryno Lascavio

            At this point they have to know that they are acting like religious zealots, dont they?

          • OWilson

            No, in their little world, “You are an idiot” settles all science :)

          • iamstopper

            Exactly right. And what happens when the religion is proven false? They find new and better false idols to worship. Used to be acid rain in the 80s, the hole in the ozone in the 90s, and believe ironically enough it was a fear of another ice age in the 70s. You Libs only believe in science when it suits you.

          • Never forget

            Actually these things were never proven false, the causes were found, the use and even mfg of the offending substances were banned by international treaty, and the hole closed, rain slightly reneutralized, etc. You should really look into the full story before you go spouting the ignorance.

          • Mike Richardson

            Exactly. The improving state of the ozone has been directly linked to the successful international reduction in the usage of CFCs, when multiple nations agreed to act based on the best science for the good of humanity. Same with reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and reduction in acid rain. We are unfortunately lagging behind with action on greenhouse gases, in no small part due to the manufactured “skepticism” from the fossil fuel industry, all so easily swallowed and regurgitated by folks happy to use an open forum on a science blog to dispute that science.

          • OWilson

            If your “multiple nations” could do anything for the “good” of humanity, there would be no wars, terrorism, or nuclear proliferation.

            Not to mention the uncivil war in your neighborhoods where your local police are being assassinated on your streets!

            But they can fix the weather by weather by 2100? :)

            As for the naturally changing ozone levels, they have been changing for longer than you socialists have been around.

            Don’t take credit for a Goldilocks Earth in balance, (as is, you just told us) your Sun!

          • Mike Richardson

            LOL … I couldn’t ask for better than this ranting right-wing screed. Please, keep them coming. If only your opinions weren’t inversely proportional in strength to the facts supporting them! Yes, the sun’s doing quite well, as this post has made clear. Any other political non-sequiturs you care to launch here?

          • OWilson

            Thank you for providing the opportunity!

          • iamstopper

            You read the article, right? The sun naturally warms and cools, without regard to flatulent cows or rising carbon dioxide levels. Let me ask again, you read the article, right?

        • Avattoir

          Yeah: in popular science blog. Among people no more educated or expert than you are, a very low bar indeed. In a format where more than a dozen lines just gets the poster a big fat yawning ” tl;dnr “.See NOW how you taken your own stoopid and then gone exponential with it? You have the emotional neediness of a 2 year old.

          • iamstopper

            So just for fun let’s go back in time and think about the expert’s predictions from 15 to 20 years ago, has a single one come true? Just name ONE example of a prediction that has come true and I’ll concede the point. IPCC, UN experts, climate blogs, ANYTHING that has come through and I’ll call you the expert that you are. I can name 100 that have all fallen dramatically short. Ball is in your court.

          • Velimir Ikalovic

            Should I pray for temperatures in my hometown to go back to 80s and 90s levels? Or should I move to some place else? what do you suggest is the better thing for me?

          • iamstopper

            Adapt. Because the only thing I am sure of is that with a billion different factors all intertwined, change is inevitable. And if you want to go back to the temps from 30 years ago, you’ll notice about .6 degree difference, is that too much change for you?

          • P.J. Dalton

            Ice caps melting… Seriously is happening and at quite an alarming rate, you probably should have been more realistic in trying to make your point, also on a scale of global change, 20 years is a very short period of time, try thinking bigger picture 😉

  • William Guessford

    In 2010, Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter aligned opposite Saturn. This grand alignment, which happens every 179 years, has slowed the angular momentum of the Sun much as a figure skater can slow her spin by extending her arms. This has nearly silenced Cycle 24 and has slowed the Sun’s conveyor system to the extent that we are now going into a Grand Solar Minimum. Cycle 25 should be nearly invisible and 26…who knows. 179 years ago, the Dalton Minimum, 179 year before that, the Maunder Minimum, 179 years before that the Sporer Minimum.

    • Ellen Bell

      The Maunder Minimum was a bad one. Many people in northern Europe starved to death because of all the crop failures. Warming trends were accompanied by plentiful food supplies and general prosperity.

      • iamstopper

        And every economic study done has said the net benefit from warming would be positive, while cooling is always devastating to gigantic swaths of our world.

        • Mike Richardson

          Did those studies by any chance include an analysis of the cost of moving hundreds of millions of people from flooded coastlines, or of erecting massive earthworks that would dwarf those in the Netherlands to protect dozens of the largest cities on this planet? The cost in terms of healthcare for expanding the range of mosquitoes, and the tropical diseases they carry, such as West Nile and Zika viruses, and malaria? Desertification of currently marginal croplands? Damage from more intense storms, fueled by warmer temperatures and increased evaporation? Either way, I’d love to see these economic studies to which you refer.

  • TonyTheTiger

    It’s Bush’s fault.

    • iamstopper

      That’s funny. Well played.

  • BeamMeUp

    There’s a little black spot on the sun today.
    It’s the same old thing as yesterday.

  • Tom Yulsman

    I post a fun little story about solar physics and look what happens: People yell at each other about climate change. I’m not sure what, if anything, this says about us. But I find it sad.

    • OWilson

      You blog comes up first under Environment/Climate Change, so that’s where true believers will tend to congregate, just like they do at church, or a Trump rally.

      It also attracts protesters, of course :)

      • Mike Richardson

        Seems like the first group congregating here were the climate change deniers. True believers indeed. :) On topic, the sun isn’t showing any degree of activity that would result in a “Little Ice Age” or some such event, and it isn’t likely it will based on current and historical observations. All things considered, our star is relatively well behaved when compared to many of its stellar brethren — no superflares, nova, or brightening or dimming that would jeopardize life. If it were otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to have this discussion.

        • OWilson

          Likewise with the true believers and their “Tipping Points” and “Great Extinction Events”.

          When’s the next one, by the way?

          Need to make a note of it, because I’ve seen at least 3 come and go, and nobody even mentions them.


          • Mike Richardson

            Must have missed “The 6th Extinction,” and the myriad other books and scientific studies showing we’re in the middle of, and the most likely cause of, a mass extinction event, right? But please, bury that head even further wherever you wish to bury it, and ignore the obvious. Perhaps you can tell the Steller’s sea cow, passenger pigeon, dodo, Tasmanian wolf, and countless other creatures that humans had no role in their unfortunate disappearances. Again, strong opinions inversely proportional to facts. At least there’s comfort in that consistency. :)

          • OWilson

            Mother Nature did a fine job all by her self of eliminating 99% of all species that ever lived.

            She has the largest cache of WMD’s and she doesn’t care where she drops them.

            Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, deadly diseases, asteroids, landslides, avalanches, forest fires, droughts.

            You can hug a tree all you want, it will make no difference.

            Mankind has survived, not by taming Mother Nature, but be adapting.

            Some of us will continue to adapt and survive.

            Not so much the chicken littles, or the ones that depend on crooked and corrupt politicians.

          • Mike Richardson

            Natural processes do indeed kill off species, and have done so in the past. People die from natural causes, too, so is it okay to kill them? See, that’s the kind of illogic you’re applying here. We’re all the poorer for the species we’ve wantonly destroyed, both for what they were, and the potential practical benefits we could have derived from increased biodiversity. Natural selection will always function, regardless of our presence, just as the sun will continue to steadily shine for the next few billion years. But our unnatural selection of destroying species, either through deliberate overhunting, habitat destruction, or a result of human influenced climate change, will impact us in the long run. It’s not being a chicken little to appreciate more biodiversity, and to work against needless loss of species. By the way, perhaps you might want to provide “a real job” for a proofreader — you’ve misspelled “bureaucrats.” 😉

          • OWilson

            At the rate you are killing babies (50 million since Roe Vs Wade) you are on the way to equaling the worst records of Mother Nature (child mortality), not to mention the infamous genocidal “usual suspects” from the last century.

            How do you feel about birds eggs? Even on farms and in zoos, and aquariums, they take the eggs and young away from killer mothers.

            As for proofreading, looks like that’s your claim to fame. Stick with it!

          • Mike Richardson

            Ah, now there’s a truly relevant tangent — abortion. You must be getting truly desperate, if that’s the best rejoinder you’ve got. I suppose like the sun going through natural cycles, you also must go through cycles of near coherence followed by cycles of increased irrelevancy and irrationality. You’re starting to sound like a religious fundamentalist at the rate you’re going, now — ignoring facts that don’t support your views and attempting to turn the conversation to an emotionally inflammatory topic. I suppose I should appreciate more the stability of our home star, when certain posters show much less mental and emotional stability around here. :)

          • OWilson

            Killing unborn babies by the millions is not an irrelevant “tangent” when discussing your statement:

            “”But our unnatural selection of destroying species, ……. will impact us in the long run”

            Abortion is NOT natural selection.

            Your other rambling and disconnected thought processes notwithstanding!

          • Mike Richardson

            LOL… you’re calling me rambling and disconnected?! I do so enjoy your constant lack of irony. Sorry, but I’m not engaging you in discussion of abortion, other than to say my views on the topic are not as uncompromising as either yours or Gloria Steinem’s. Likewise, I’m open to new knowledge regarding the sun, our planet, and other topics of science discussed here. There’s literally always something new under the sun. Amazing what you can learn when you aren’t a close-minded ideologue. :)

          • OWilson

            You brought up the subject of killing off species, by unnatural selection (man), and bemoaning the loss of potential.

            Future Einsteins, my kids, your kids have value in the womb, if you have any human decency at all.

            So you go worry about that “Sixth Great Extinction”, or the “7 Revealed Truths” or whatever is the latest End of Times scenario you chicken little are being sold by the DNC and NYT. :)

            Don’t forget to ring a bell or something to let us know when to gather, light a candle and swallow the cool aid or the pill.

            Even before, if you have time. maybe I’ll load up my credit cards and go on a spree! :)

        • iamstopper

          Completely agree! The sun naturally goes through cycles, and sometimes it’s warmer, sometimes it’s a lititle cooler, but trying to blame any blip of warming on CO2 seems ridiculous. Especially in hindsight when all of their predictions have been 100% wrong. Remember in the 70s the fear was another ice age, probably because of some other solar blip. Just relax everybody, everything will be alright….

          • Mike Richardson

            The 1970’s Ice Age predictions were never based on more than a few papers, concentrating on the effects of high altitude sulfur aerosols from sources such as power plants, and the belief that they could block enough sunlight to cause cooling (absent the increased greenhouse gas emissions, they would cool the Earth’s surface). A solar blip did not cause cooling then, and won’t in the foreseeable future. Within a few years, the manmade Ice Age hypothesis was dismissed, and over the next few decades, thousands upon thousands of research articles have been produced describing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the warming of our planet as a result. It has been studied, confirmed, and described in far more detail than any other climate model, and is accepted by well over 90 percent of climate scientists — so no, it isn’t in any way comparable to the “fear of another ice age.” We are already seeing some effects of this, mainly in warming at the poles, and in increasing droughts and more severe flooding and storm events. Ignoring these facts will not cause everything to be alright, but acknowledging them and taking logical and rational steps to mitigate the sources of greenhouse gas production can lessen the severity of consequences for generations to come.

          • iamstopper

            Three words for you. Record. Arctic. Ice.

            And I guess droughts and floods and hurricanes are all brand new.

          • Mike Richardson

            Four words, to be precise. Record. LOW. Arctic. Ice. There, fixed it for you. You may be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. But that won’t stop an upvote from someone else equally unconcerned with accuracy, will it? 😉

          • iamstopper

            Record low? Are you freaking seropus? Do you actually read any scientific articles? Read a paper? I’m done talking with someone who doesn’t even know basic and simple facts.

          • Mike Richardson

            Yep, I’m “seropus,” … LOL! Record low arctic sea ice.
            You may be thinking of the Antarctic, perhaps, but in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s been in decline. That’s a basic and simple fact you may want to check. :)

    • BBQman

      When people are openly discussing new and old ideals, even if they are rude and or insulting sometimes, you should feel proud about the environment that you created that stimulates people’s minds away from group think and settled science, I say let it flow, encourage diversity of thought, you never know what new enlightenment might development as a result.

      People should build on each other’s thoughts, not just blow them off, if new ideals lead nowhere today, then maybe tomorrow, but the human brain must be allowed to consider, evaluate, and project it’s individual observations or we might get stuck in the mud like we are with the CO2 debate. The CO2 debate is totally corrupted with millions of false conclusions mixed with facts built from a perpetual bureaucracy that intentionally confounds the debate,IMHO.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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