Last month I blogged about the remarkable solar storms we’ve been witnessing, in Solar Storm January 2012 – How is it Changing You and the World. The storms continue, producing some of the most spectacular aurora viewing the world has seen in a long time. Thanks to technology and our ability to record images as never before, videos have become available of some pretty remarkable phenomena on the surface of the sun.
One such phenomena that’s captured my awe and interest are the solar tornadoes. These vortexes caused by plasma eruptions are so immense they could contain entire earth-sized planets. Unlike our earth-bound tornadoes, however, these aren’t driven by the wind. What drives them is the powerful magnetic field of our star. The particles are pulled this way and that by competing magnetic forces and then track along strands of magnetic field lines.
Watch this video, captured earlier this month, and consider these titans are whirling at about 300,000 mph. It just leaves you awestruck. The SDO spacecraft which captured this footage recorded the video in the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum, giving the movie an eerie yellow hue.
NASA released the new SDO video to mark the second anniversary of the spacecraft’s mission, launched on Feb. 11, 2010. The $850 million spacecraft is on a five-year mission to record high-definition videos of the sun to help astronomers better understand how the sun’s solar weather cycle affects life on Earth.
The current solar activity is part of an 11-year weather cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, and is expected to peak in 2013.