LOOK: The Sun Just Developed a Creepy Smiley Face Following a Partial Solar Eclipse

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

Days before millions of Americans celebrate Halloween, Earth’s sun donned a spooky costume of its own, almost taking on the appearance of a jack-o-lantern as a partial solar eclipse revealed what looks like an unnerving smiley face swirling in the massive star’s atmosphere.

Newsweek reports that NASA captured the image on October 26th with its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft. Per the outlet, the strange smiley face is the result of coronal holes—areas of the sun’s atmosphere that are cooler and less dense than surrounding plasma. The temperature differences make for darker spots that appear to populate the sun’s surface, those spots most recently creating what appears to be a smiley face.

The solar eclipse, however, only rendered the sun’s smiley face viewable via NASA’s specialized equipment. After SDO captured the original image, NASA used the craft’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) to reveal the sun’s strange expression.

AIA Tracks Temperature Differences On the Sun Following Solar Eclipse

According to the outlet, AIA is essential in viewing the sun as the equipment utilizes several different “channels.” These channels are capable of viewing the sun at different temperatures, meaning that the smiley face seen following the most recent solar eclipse is probably just one of several unique shapes the sun’s atmosphere created while under observation.

George Ho, a space physicist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab (APL), revealed which temperature NASA viewed the sun’s smiley face in. Ho stated the yellowy image of the sun was taken viewing temperatures around 1 million Kelvin.

“That’s why these cooler coronal holes show up so well,” he explained. “They also show up well in X-Ray.”

How Coronal Holes Impact the Earth

Aside from creating unnerving smiley faces–not to mention other intriguing shapes—during the solar eclipse, the sun’s coronal holes can, on occasion, have a significant impact here on earth.

Coronal holes are significant because, while they, unlike solar flares, don’t send particles shooting toward the earth, they do mess with our planet’s magnetic field.

Coronal holes are sources of streams of charged particles that flow from the sun and out into our solar system. As these charged particles travel, they create disturbances within the solar system and, therefore, affect Earth’s magnetic field. Shifts in the planet’s magnetic field can have a significant effect on modern technology around the world.

These disturbances, known as geomagnetic storms, have a way of interfering with modern technology like radio communications and power grids. Some geomagnetic storms are even powerful enough to interrupt power to more isolated regions around the world. The coronal holes spotted during the solar eclipse though severely lack the power to really have any effect here on earth at all.