UFO or Natural Phenomenon? New Images from the Sun Reveal Shocking Image

New images coming in from the SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) of the sun this week have boggled a few imaginations.  This new image shows what appears to be a planet-sized mysterious orb hovering above the surface of the sun, joined by an umbilical of sorts.  After a few moments it appears to jettison suddenly off into space.

That is, at least, what UFOers and purveyors of Youtube are claiming.  Not to discount those who have this passion, this time there is a scientific explanation for this newly observed phenomenon.   According to NASA scientists, this strange planetoid and tether are actually related to a little-understood but frequently observed type of solar activity called a “prominence.”  The way it is situated beneath another solar feature gives it the other-worldly appearance.

These prominences form loops that can reach thousands of miles out into space.  When one extends the way this one did, it usually means it’s about to erupt.  This is exactly what happened when the “planetoid” appears to launch into space.

What caused the strange planetoid appearance?  The filament seen extending from the surface of the sun is actually a plasma tunnel called a filament tunnel.  Because of the angle of its “spout” it appears as a spherical object.  Basically, you’re looking straight down into it.  These features aren’t uncommon.

So, if you’re like me when I first saw the video, you can put your lower jaw back into its original position and relax into a more comfortable sensation of awe and curiosity.  I can hardly wait to see what new things are revealed by the SDO next.

A coronal mass ejection captured by the SOHO observatory on March 12.
CREDIT: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

For more details, visit the related article at Space.com.

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Solar Storm January 2012—How is it Changing You and the World?

Sun Tornadoes the Size of Earth Captured in Breathtaking Video

Sun Tornadoes the Size of Earth Captured in Breathtaking Video

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.