When it comes to space, some things sound worse than they are.
For instance, a researcher has worked out how to find hidden portals in the Earth's magnetic field which create uninterrupted pathways straight to the heart of the Sun.
The phenomenon is real, and can cause solar storms - but your worst fears involving a mix between a sci-fi vacuum tube, the Danny Boyle film Sunshine and a fiery death are some way off the mark.
Jack Scudder, a university of Iowa scientist, has helped locate the phenomena.
Scudder make the discovery using data from Nasa's Themis spacecraft. That spacecraft encountered many x-points, but until now it was not possible to accurately find then.
He said the portals "create an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun's atmosphere 93 million miles away" and whole dozens are opened and closed each day, some can be open for long periods.
Such portals are located a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth. In a move sure to get paranoid people looking nervously at the skies, the portals are named "X-points", are capable of opening without any warning, and can send high-energy particles from the Sun to the Earth very rapidly.
"Most portals are small and short-lived; others are yawning, vast, and sustained," Nasa said. "Tons of energetic particles can flow through the openings, heating Earth's upper atmosphere, sparking geomagnetic storms, and igniting bright polar auroras."
Nasa explained: "Portals form via the process of magnetic reconnection. Mingling lines of magnetic force from the sun and Earth criss-cross and join to create the openings. "X-points" are where the criss-cross takes place. The sudden joining of magnetic fields can propel jets of charged particles from the X-point, creating an "electron diffusion region."
As with most space phenomena, the portals require more research. But in the meantime if you want to bash out a quick novella about space monsters arriving from the Sun - go for it.
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