Posted Thursday, March 29, 2012, at 5:31 PM
Photo by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) via Getty Images
The only thing more terrifying than a giant twister on Earth is one on the face of the sun. A monstrous tornado has been observed erupting on our star, and its numbers are staggering.
So big it could swallow five Earths in one gulp, the swirling vortex observed last September and presented at this week’s National Astronomy Meeting in England grew to a height of 125,000 miles, about half the distance between Earth and the moon. The temperature of the plume of superheated gas measured between 90,000 and 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit and was accelerated to speeds approaching 186,000 miles per hour.
Discovered by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory, this Master Blaster is thought to be the first Solar Tornado ever filmed, and may help us understand the kinds of large particle eruptions that recently came flying at us from the ball of gas. As our local star approaches Solar Max, the peak activity of an 11-year cycle, 2012 is shaping up to be one spectacular year for space weather.
Video produced by Paca Thomas