(NEXSTAR) — From Thursday to Friday, a canyon-like hole in the sun’s atmosphere may launch a high-speed stream of solar wind into Earth’s magnetic field, causing a minor geomagnetic storm.
A coronal hole is a gigantic gulf that runs across the center of the sun. Our sun’s coronal holes are regions in its upper atmosphere where electrified gas, or plasma, is less hot or dense than in other regions, which makes them appear black.
These coronal holes “appear dark because they are cooler, less dense regions than the surrounding plasma and are regions of open, unipolar magnetic fields,” NOAA explains. “This open, magnetic field line structure allows the solar wind to escape more readily into space, resulting in streams of relatively fast solar wind.”
According to the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco, the sun’s magnetic field lines do not loop back in on themselves around these holes, producing 1.8 million mph beams of solar material into space.
While beams of solar material being launched into space can sound dangerous to nearby planets, including ours, experts like Rob Steenburgh of NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast office told Nexstar, “They happen all the time and are no cause for alarm.”
Earth will likely be hit by a weak storm on Thursday, according to Spaceweather.com. The storm, called a G-1 geomagnetic storm, may cause minor power outages as well as damage to satellites, including GPS and mobile devices. There is a possibility that an aurora could be observed as far south as Michigan and Maine as well.
In the past, strong geomagnetic storms have caused power outages, radio problems, and problems with satellite navigation, but since this storm is minor, none of that should happen.
That being said, NOAA has issued an extended alert for the event.