NASA spacecraft captures dramatic solar tornado spin off the sun

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NASA recently released stunning video of a violent plasma tornado spinning on the surface of the sun and breaking off into space.

This video was captured by the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), a spacecraft launched on February 11, 2010 whose five year mission is to study the sun’s magnetic field and its correlation to solar wind. The video was created from imagery collected by NASA‘s SDO orbital from April 29 to 30.

Tornadoes on earth occur in connection with rotating thunderstorms as a result of temperature differences and strong shear winds. In contrast, the sun’s solar tornadoes are generated by tangled, rotating magnetic fields that force the plasma to tighten into a colossal vortex before ejecting out into space. These are massive structures with diameters typically ranging from 930 to 3,500 miles. In 2011, however, a solar tornado was observed that was five times larger than the Earth and spinning at speeds of up to 186,000 miles per hour.

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(Article co-written with Brandon Bailey)

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Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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