(NEXSTAR) – A “coronal hole” in the sun’s atmosphere could trigger a geomagnetic storm, the effects of which may be felt on Earth on Wednesday, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.
In an image of the sun shared with Nexstar, the disturbance on the sun’s surface is visible in the bottom right quadrant. There’s another, more defined spot on the sun’s left side.
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.”
While some headlines make the occurrence sound like a doomsday-inducing hole in the sun, Rob Steenburgh of NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast office told Nexstar, “They happen all the time and are no cause for alarm.”
This type of disturbance can lead to mild or even moderate geomagnetic storms, Steenburgh said. A minor geomagnetic storm may cause weak fluctuations in the power grid, impact satellite operations on spacecraft, and make aurora displays in the sky visible at high latitudes, like in parts of Michigan and Maine.
Strong geomagnetic storms can cause power blackouts, radio issues and problems with satellite navigation – but that’s nothing like what we’re expecting to see Wednesday.
There are no active warnings related to space weather.