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‘Giant space pumpkin’: NASA explains what made the sun ‘smile’ just days before Halloween | WGN 720 Radio

(NEXSTAR) – It may look cute and sweet, but a “smile” seen in recent photos of the sun sparked a geomagnetic storm watch over the weekend.

An image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory taken last Wednesday compares to Jack’s Lantern for three prominent black spots that some say look like eyes and a toothless grin.

Astrophysicist Brian Keating quipped on Twitter: “Refraction! Just in time for Halloween, NASA captured a giant space pumpkin!”

“These dark spots on the Sun, visible in ultraviolet light, are known as coronal holes and are regions where the fast solar wind is blasted into space.” — NASA tweeted.

Less magical than the smile, however, was the geomagnetic storm watch that went into effect Saturday, with researchers watching for coronal holes that were expected to intensify and disrupt the solar wind environment and lead to “unstable conditions” and the possibility of a minor storm.

Geomagnetic storms can “cause anomalies and disruptions in the modern conveniences we’ve come to rely on,” according to Weather.gov. The magnetic fields associated with storms are known cause major power outages which can affect water and wastewater distribution systems, perishable food and medicine, heating and air conditioning, computer systems, public transportation, fuel distribution, and all other electrical systems.

It looks like the worst-case scenario didn’t come true, as NASA tweeted on Sunday that there had been three solar flares, 23 coronal mass ejections, but there are no geomagnetic storms last week.

The ‘smiling’ sun has sparked mixed reactions on social media, with some clearly more impressed by the images than others.

“What a beauty,” one person wrote, while another added: “That smile captures my heart.”

Others appeared concerned by the star’s apparent expression, with just one person tweeting: “Thank you NASA for the nightmares tonight.”


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