by Adam Mann
March 28, 2012

from Wired Website



Huge solar tornado discovered
The superb spatial and temporal resolution of Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) allows us to observe the solar atmosphere in great detail.

Using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on board SDO, we are able to find spectacular rotation of material at solar prominences and the coronal cavities above them.

Quite often, big coronal mass ejections will occur after these rotations are observed.

The image and animated movie (below) shown here are for a spectacular event observed on Sept 25 2011 and a study of this event will be presented in the National Astronomy Meeting 2012 and submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal by us (Dr. Xing Li, Dr. Huw Morgan and Mr. Drew Leonard).

The tornado can be as wide as five earths.



This enormous tornado erupting from the surface of the sun is big enough to swallow the Earth. In fact, it could swallow five Earths.

Discovered using NASAís Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite, this colossal twisting mass is made up of superheated gas at a temperature of between 90,000 and 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the course of three hours, this behemoth reached up from the sunís surface to a height of 125,000 miles, or roughly half the distance between the Earth and the moon. The hot gases were whipped up to nearly 186,000 miles per hour. In comparison, the wind speed of terrestrial tornadoes generally reaches a paltry 100 miles per hour.

Scientists have previously seen smaller solar tornadoes with other sun-observing satellites but this one - spotted in September 2011 - is thought to be the first one ever filmed:



Since then, researchers have seen at least one more solar tornado, an Earth-sized twister seen in the video below.

These tornadoes often precede events known as coronal mass ejections - huge eruptions of charged particles that blast out of the sunís surface with tremendous energy.


Such flare-ups are thought to be related to interactions among the sunís magnetic field lines, whose corkscrewing movements also shape the solar tornado.



For a 30 hour spell (Feb 7-8, 2012) the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured plasma caught in a magnetic dance across the Sun's surface.

The results closely resemble extreme tornadic activity on Earth.