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Even the Sun goes all spooky for Halloween

Charlotte Edwards and Zoe Smith, October 30, 2019 7:00PM Kids News

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Active regions on the Sun combine to look like a jack-o’-lantern face. The image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun from its orbit in space. Picture: NASA via AP media_cameraActive regions on the Sun combine to look like a jack-o’-lantern face. The image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun from its orbit in space. Picture: NASA via AP

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NASA has shown some Halloween spirit by releasing a spooky image of the Sun looking like a jack-o’-lantern with flaming eyes and a creepy smile.

The photo was taken by the Solar Dynamics* Observatory satellite, which has been observing and photographing the Sun since the satellite launched in 2010.

NASA explained that the brighter parts of the Sun we can see in the photo are the active regions that emit* more light and energy.

“They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

“This image blends together two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths … typically colourised in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.”

media_cameraA jack-o’-lantern pumpkin looking pretty spooky in a dark forest at night.

The spooky face was created when activity on the Sun reached ‘solar maximum’, which can result in more sun spots.

These spots can appear as a different colour to the rest of the solar surface.

Activity on the Sun goes through an 11-year cycle, in which it spans from solar maximum to solar minimum and back.

During the maximum periods, sun spots and solar flares increase in intensity.

This results in warmer temperatures on Earth.

This handout image provided by NASA, taken Sunday night, Jan. 22, 2012, shows a  solar flare erupting on the Sun's northeastern hemisphere. Space weather officials say the strongest solar storm in more than six years is already bombarding Earth with radiation with more to come. The Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado observed a flare Sunday night at 11 p.m. EST. Physicist Doug Biesecker said the biggest concern from the speedy eruption is the radiation, which arrived on Earth an hour later. It will likely continue through Wednesday. It's mostly an issue for astronauts' health and satellite disruptions. It can cause communication problems for airplanes that go over the poles. (AP Photo/NASA) media_cameraAnother solar flare erupting on the Sun, this one in 2012. The radiation from this solar flare arrived at Earth an hour later. Picture: AP/NASA

The space agency commented alongside the jack-o’-lantern-like Sun photo, which was taken in 2014: “Even our star celebrates the spooky season — in 2014, active regions on the Sun created this jack-o’-lantern face, as seen in ultraviolet light by our Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite.”

06/08/2011 WIRE: ADDING INFOS : RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NASA / HO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS  Handout photo released by Nasa Earth Observatory on June 7, 2011 and taken from Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), sunspot complex 1226-1227, shows the Sun unleashing an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a coronal mass ejection (CME) resulting in a large cloud of particles mushrooming up and falling back down giving the impression of covering an area of almost half the solar surface. An unusual solar flare observed by a NASA space observatory on June 7 could cause some disruptions to satellite communications and power on Earth over the next day or so, officials said. The potent blast from the Sun unleashed a firestorm of radiation on a level not witnessed since 2006, and will likely lead to moderate geomagnetic storm activity by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.      AFP PHOTO / HO / NASA media_cameraThe Sun unleashes a medium-sized solar flare. Picture: AFP/HO/NASA

SOLAR FLARES
Earth is sometimes struck by solar eruptions, which are made up of particles hurled from the Sun into space.

Larger amounts of hot plasma* create potentially dangerous flares.

Big flares can break down radio communication and power supplies.

The largest observed eruption took place in September 1859 — known as the “Carrington Event”.

If the same solar storm had hit Earth today, we would experience widespread electrical disruptions and blackouts.

Evidence from geological* archives has shown that the Sun might have produced a small superflare in AD 775.

A superflare is an incredibly powerful solar flare that could knock out electricity networks for months or even years.

This article was first published in The Sun and is reproduced here with permission.

HALLOWEEN: NEED TO KNOW
Halloween is also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve.

It is on October 31, the eve of the Christian religious event called All Hallows’ Day, which is for remembering people who have died, including saints.

Halloween is increasingly celebrated in Australia, with supermarket chain Woolworths expecting to sell more than 200 tonnes of pumpkins, 20 per cent more than last year.

Popular costumes this year are characters from recently released scary movies such as Joker and It.

Health experts are warning of the dangers of extreme costume items, such as spooky contact lenses.

Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer Luk Arundel said novelty contact lenses could be dangerous.

“Contact lenses aren’t toys,” he said.

“They need to be prescribed and handled with care and the users need to (be) properly instructed how to use them in order to avoid contamination*.

“The biggest risk is when a person goes to bed still wearing the contact lenses.”

Mr Arundel also urged caution if using face paint to recreate, for instance, the look of the character the Joker.

Face paints — as well as glitter and false eyelashes — can cause allergic reactions. Opt for hyper-allergenic versions where possible.

Oz Comic-Con media_cameraHarry Stott as The Joker from the movie Joker and L.J. Girdlestone as Pennywise from the movie It, both popular characters to dress up as this Halloween. Picture: Ian Currie

GLOSSARY

  • dynamics: science of how things move
  • emit: give off
  • plasma: a stream of matter give off by the Sun
  • geological: to do with what the Earth (and other planets, stars etc) is made of
  • contamination: exposing something to germs or other pollution so it is no longer clean or pure

EXTRA READING

Halloween’s hidden history

Remote Australian ghost town comes back to life

Big Ben runner has bad time at end of marathon

Funny food hats will have you in stitches

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What are the brighter parts of the photo of the Sun?
  2. When and what was the Carrington Event?
  3. What are two other names for Halloween?
  4. What do supermarkets sell a lot of for Halloween?
  5. What’s the biggest risk with wearing novelty contact lenses?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Spooky but safe
Create two special Halloween posters. The first poster should help others kids understand the most important and interesting facts about Halloween. The second poster should be on the topic “Be Spooky but Safe.”

Time: allow 45 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, History, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
“Halloween is an American tradition, so Australian kids shouldn’t celebrate it.”

You may have heard someone say that before.

What do you think? Write a post or a letter explaining why you agree or disagree with this statement. Remember to give lots of reasons and evidence to make your writing very convincing.

To help you complete this activity, you might like to read another Kids News story, also listed in the EXTRA READING section above: Halloween’s hidden history

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

VCOP ACTIVITY
Spooky Sun
As All Hallows’ Eve approaches and the veil between the spirit world and Earth becomes thinner, signs of evilness start to appear … blink and you might miss the warning signs.

The Sun’s sinister side has already appeared with NASA lucky enough to capture the evidence. But what other spooky incidents have we missed, and what will Halloween have in store for us this year? Will terror and evil reign the Earth?

You need to form a Terror Team that will battle the evil spirits that try and get through the veil between the two worlds.

You will need 5 people to make up the points of the pentagram star to ward off evil.

Who will you choose and why?

Write a paragraph about the spooky incidents you have all noticed and how you will prepare for the night ahead. While the innocent trick or treat, you will save the world from evil once again.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you dress up and celebrate Halloween?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in just for fun