A huge tornado on the sun released a cloud of hot gas 6 times the size of the Earth – DNyuz

A huge tornado on the sun released a cloud of hot gas 6 times the size of the Earth

NASA captured an enormous tornado on the sun’s surface that released a cloud of hot charged gas about six times the size of the Earth.

The gas cloud was spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Thursday.

It was accompanied by a powerful coronal mass ejection, an explosion that sends charged particles barreling through space, per space weather website spaceweather.com.

The cloud of gas was not launched toward Earth, so isn’t dangerous for humans. Still, it is a symptom of the sun’s current state of restlessness, which is increasing as it nears a peak of activity.

The sun’s poles rotate about every twelve years. This causes our star to fizz with more solar explosions, sunspots, flares, and storms than when it is quiet. The sun will eventually reach a maximum of activity before settling back down.

Scientists predict this peak should happen within the next year or so. In the meantime, they are keeping a close eye.

Solar weather is mostly harmless for humans, but a peak of solar activity increases the risk of a very rare, once-in-a-lifetime solar storm so powerful it could short power grids and knock out communication systems.

Solar observation systems are currently poorly equipped to predict such a storm, which could be felt on Earth very quickly.

The increased solar activity could also put deep-space astronauts at more risk being exposed to radiation, a major hindrance at a time when space agencies aim to send astronauts to the moon. NASA, for instance, wants to launch its Artemis 2 mission to fly astronauts around the moon in 2024.

The term “solar tornado” is only a nickname for the structure spotted on the sun, which is still poorly understood, experts previously told Business Insider.

“What we’re seeing here is polar crown filament (PCF). In March, Mathew Owsen, a space physics professor at the University of Reading told BI that a filament was a large, twisted, magnetic tighture which sat above the surface of the sun for several months.

According to Owens, plasma can be produced when magnetic fields are put under excessive tension.

The term “tornado” suggests the structure spins, but this might be a misnomer, Sven Wedemeyer, a professor of solar physics from the University of Oslo who has studied this phenomenon, told BI in March.

“You basically have two possibilities. Wedemeyer said that either you are seeing a structure held together by magnet fields, which is actually rotating, or you see plasma, hot gas, that is following twisted magnetic fields and giving the illusion of rotating but moving just up and down in a spiral.

“If there is rotation, it may destabilize or trigger the entire structure. This may have contributed to this explosion,” explained Wedemeyer.

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