NASA satellite spots massive, violent tornadoes in Sun’s atmosphere

NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory watches enormous tornadoes spin across the Sun

solar tornado
Massive swirling tornadoes of fire erupt in the Sun's atmosphere have been observed by NASA's Sun watching Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) satellite.

And these are no ordinary tornadoes as you might imagine, These solar beasts can be sizes five-times larger than Earth and spinning at speeds over 300,000 kilometers (about 190,000 miles) per hour - compared to gas speeds of terrestrial tornadoes that can reach about 150 km per hour according to Dr. Xing Li, of Aberystwyth University who along with others made the solar tornado observation and presented findings today at a National Astronomy Meeting.

More: What's up with these solar storms?

The tornadoes often occur at the root of huge coronal mass ejections. When heading toward the Earth, these ejections can cause significant damage to the Earth's space environment, satellites, even knock out the electricity grid, Li stated. The solar tornadoes drag winding magnetic field and electric currents into the high atmosphere. It is possible that the magnetic field and currents play a key role in driving coronal mass ejections that throw off massive amounts of energy out into space.

Describing the solar tornado, Li said researcher saw  superheated gases as hot as 50,000 to 2,000,000 Kelvin sucked from the root of a dense structure called a prominence, and spiral up into the high atmosphere and travel about 200,000 kilometers along helical paths for a period of at least three hours. The tornadoes were observed on September 25, 2011.

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