NASA scientists spotted a strange polar vortex near the Sun’s northern pole. According to the space agency, the vortex is part of a large filament of solar plasma. It appears that it has now circled the north pole in a similar way as a tornado. Unfortunately, scientists have no idea what caused the vortex.
Attention was first brought to the Sun’s strange polar vortex when Dr. Tamitha Skov posted on Twitter, sharing images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. Although the sight is exciting, many are still puzzled as to what caused the vortex. According to all data available, scientists believe that part of the Sun was lost and was caught in the vortex.
The vortex itself appeared above the 55-degree latitude. This isn’t the first instance of it. Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told Space.com that the Sun’s strange polar vortex appears at that exact place every solar cycle.
Talk about Polar Vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our Star. Implications for understanding the Sun’s atmospheric dynamics above 55deg here cannot be overstated! pic.twitter.com/1SKhunaXvP
— Dr. Tamitha Skov (@TamithaSkov) February 2, 2023
However, this is the first time astronomers have seen a polar vortex of this caliber on the Sun. It is why so many are curious and excited to find out what caused a part of the Sun to split and become sucked in to it.
The sun follows an 11-year solar cycle, and according to McIntosh, this vortex has appeared at the 55-degree latitude mark once every single cycle scientists have observed. As such, many astronomers believe the polar vortex could have something to do with how the Sun reverses its magnetic field.
McIntosh said that many astronomers have questioned why the vortex appears at that spot, only to move toward the pole and vanish, then to reappear three to four years later in the same spot it did before. Could the polar vortex play some part in how the Sun’s cycle plays out? That’s one of the biggest theories astronomers have thrown around.
Hopefully, upcoming missions like the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter can help shed some light on these phenomena, as well as the massive sunspots that astronomers have discovered across the surface of the Sun. Understanding how polar vortexes spawn on the Sun could help us better understand how our star reverses its magnetic field each cycle. More research on this strange phenomenon could help us understand how and why the Sun functions. That, in turn, could help us better predict solar flares and other cosmic events that threaten our world.
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