NASA has shared an image of the sun “smiling”, after one of their satellites captured patterns on its surface appearing to show a happy face.
The US space agency posted the images on social media, writing: “NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the sun ‘smiling.’ Seen in ultraviolet light, these dark patches on the Sun are known as coronal holes and are regions where fast solar wind gushes out into space.”
People were quick to make comparisons with a variety of characters and objects, including the Teletubbies baby, the Ghostbusters Stay Puff marshmallow man, a biscuit, a lion and a pumpkin.
One person wrote on Twitter: “If Teletubbies chose a realistic sun, this would be it”.
While another said: “Seems like all those young kids drawing a smiley sun in pre-school were onto something…”
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory was set up in 2010 to investigate how solar activity is created and how it drives space weather.
The observatory spacecraft measures the sun’s interior, atmosphere, magnetic field and energy output.
SpaceWeather.com, which monitors all forms of space weather, issued a warning under the headline “THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER”, saying the smiley face was formed by holes in the sun’s atmosphere but was “spewing a triple stream of solar wind toward Earth”.
It said first contact with auroras could occur on Saturday.
A solar storm takes place when the sun releases huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
These phenomena send streams of electrical charges and magnetic fields toward the Earth at a speed of about three million mph.
While that sounds somewhat scary, the result will be more attractive than apocalyptic.
When a solar storm strikes Earth, it interferes with the planet’s magnetic field, creating auroras near the Arctic and Antarctic circles – the northern lights or aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and the aurora australis or southern lights in the south.
Sometimes it can be seen south of the Arctic Circle so that parts of Scotland could be treated to a light show this Halloween weekend, with clear skies making Saturday night a good time to enjoy the phenomenon.