Let’s Explore Solar Tornadoes

The sun has been experiencing its own tornadoes of late (what a sight that must be up close). The tornadoes consisting of super hot plasma are larger than the entire planet Earth! In fact, astronomers with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory believe the tornadoes are thousands of miles tall. They follow the sun’s magnetic field and scientists theorize that the magnetic field acts like a spring pushing the plasma upward and causing it to expand.

Astronomers are puzzled by the fact that these tornadoes have temperatures around 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit while the sun’s temperature is 2 million degrees. These tornadoes bear winds up to 500,000 kilometers per hour.

The best photos of solar tornadoes ever taken came during the 30 hour tornado that occurred Feb. 7 and early the next day. The photos are courtesy of the Solar Dynamics Observatory which is celebrating its second year of taking photos of the sun. The solar dynamics observatory mission is to take high definition videos of the sun. Prior to the mission, scientists had problems clearly seeing the tornadoes because the super bright solar flares interfered with getting good photos of the events.

At times, the tornado, officially known as solar prominences, had as many as seven vortexes. Scientists believe the tornadoes are caused by a change in the sun’s magnetic field.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

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