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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Giant Tornadoes Seen Erupting From the Sun

Image courtesy NASA
A solar storm on the sun's surface was shown to twist, like a tornado does on Earth, in images from NASA's STEREO satellite taken on April 9, 2008.

This twisting also occurs in solar jets, which produce tornado-like events close to the sun's poles, new satellite data has found. "These solar tornadoes are almost a thousand times faster than a terrestrial tornado and are very big," said Spiros Patsourakos, a researcher at George Mason University.

That twist comes from the sun's magnetic field, said Etienne Pariat, also of George Mason University.

"The magnetic field lines act like a spring, which expands and jumps outward," said Pariat, who has used computer simulations to model the forces producing the jets. The forces originate in the solar interior, he added, where the sun's rotation twists the magnetic field. "But the twist cannot be stored, so it must be ejected."

TV Tornado © 1967 World Distributors
Scientists have known since the 1990s that jets of gas wider than North America were erupting from the sun's poles, but it is only now that they discovered these jets are rotating. Advanced viewing technologies have enabled scientists to study these phenomena in unprecedented clarity. link

Tornado Twins © DC Comics

Monday, June 2, 2008