A tremendous tornado whirling across the surface of the sun was captured by a NASA satellite recently -- an amazing wonder of the solar system that may be as big as the Earth itself. The video was recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a sun-watching satellite that has transmitted a series of stunning photos of solar flares in recent months. The new video shows darker, cooler plasma shifting back and forth above the sun's surface over the span of nearly 30 hours stretching from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8. And the giant tornado may be as large as the Earth itself, with gusts of up to 300,000 mph, explained Terry Kucera, deputy SOHO project scientist and a solar physicist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's about 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- relatively cool," Kucera told FoxNews.com. After all, the sun's corona is a whopping 2 million degrees, she explained. Such tornadoes (Kucera classed it a "solar prominence") have been known of for decades; the European Space Agency's SOHO spacecraft captured evidence of them as early as 1996, mainly near the Sun's north and south poles at the time. And though they resemble their cousins here on Earth, they're created entirely differently, Kucera said -- through magnetism, not pressure and temperature fluctuations. "Those motions you see, it's all just moving along the magnetic field somehow -- but we're still looking to understand what's happening with these things," Kucera said. The storm was created by competing magnetic forces, which pull the charged magnetic particles on the sun back and forth, creating a spinning mass of plasma that tracks along strands of magnetic field lines, NASA explained. The spinning top of the tornado is mesmerizing, but Kucera noted the span of the prominence as well. The long, ribbon shapes could span hundreds of thousands of miles, she said. "In total length, this could be dozens of Earths -- quite large," she said. Such detailed, high-resolution recordings of the immense tornadoes was not possible until the launch of SDO. The satellite has several cameras on board that capture solar activity in different wavelengths and frequencies, all in the name of science. "Each wavelength of light tells us something different," she said. See more HERE: The CELESTIAL Convergence http://astronomicalsecrets.blogspot.com/2012/02/tornado-on-sun.html FAIR USE NOTICE: These pages/video may contain copyrighted (© ) material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available to advance understanding of ecological, POLITICAL, HUMAN RIGHTS, economic, DEMOCRACY, scientific, MORAL, ETHICAL, and SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES, etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior general interest in receiving similar information for research and educational.
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Right at midnight UT time the active region 1429 unleashed a powerful X5.4-class solar flare. X-class flares are the strongest of the flares. They are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. It appears that right after the large X5.4 flare another slightly lower, X1 flare (5 times smaller) occurred. You can clearly see a wave going across the Sun. We are still gathering data and the Space Weather Forecast Lab will be having updates available soon. Credit: NASA SDO
A recent flurry of eruptions on the sun did more than spark pretty auroras around the poles. NASA-funded researchers say the solar storms of March 8th through 10th dumped enough energy in Earth's upper atmosphere to power every residence in New York City for two years. "This was the biggest dose of heat we've received from a solar storm since 2005," says Martin Mlynczak of NASA Langley Research Center. "It was a big event, and shows how solar activity can directly affect our planet." Mlynczak is the associate principal investigator for the SABER instrument onboard NASA's TIMED satellite. SABER monitors infrared emissions from Earth's upper atmosphere, in particular from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air hundreds of km above our planet's surface. "Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are natural thermostats," explains James Russell of Hampton University, SABER's principal investigator. "When the upper atmosphere (or 'thermosphere') heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space." That's what happened on March 8th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled in our direction by an X5-class solar flare hit Earth's magnetic field. (On the "Richter Scale of Solar Flares," X-class flares are the most powerful kind.) Energetic particles rained down on the upper atmosphere, depositing their energy where they hit. The action produced spectacular auroras around the poles and significant1 upper atmospheric heating all around the globe. "The thermosphere lit up like a Christmas tree," says Russell. "It began to glow intensely at infrared wavelengths as the thermostat effect kicked in." For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy. Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space. In human terms, this is a lot of energy. According to the New York City mayor's office, an average NY household consumes just under 4700 kWh annually. This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years. "Unfortunately, there's no practical way to harness this kind of energy," says Mlynczak. "It's so diffuse and out of reach high above Earth's surface. Plus, the majority of it has been sent back into space by the action of CO2 and NO." During the heating impulse, the thermosphere puffed up like a marshmallow held over a campfire, temporarily increasing the drag on low-orbiting satellites. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, extra drag helps clear space junk out of Earth orbit. On the other hand, it decreases the lifetime of useful satellites by bringing them closer to the day of re-entry. The storm is over now, but Russell and Mlynczak expect more to come. "We're just emerging from a deep solar minimum," says Russell. "The solar cycle is gaining strength with a maximum expected in 2013." More sunspots flinging more CMEs toward Earth adds up to more opportunities for SABER to study the heating effect of solar storms. "This is a new frontier in the sun-Earth connection," says Mlynczak, and the data we're collecting are unprecedented." Credit: NASA Science
Lately, the International Space Station has been flying through geomagnetic storms, giving astronauts an close-up view of the aurora borealis just outside their windows. These videos were taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station. First, get an introduction into the beauty of aurorae. 1st Segment: The sequence of shots was taken March 3, 2012 from 17:59:48 to 18:16:25 GMT, on a pass from eastern Kenya, near the Indian Ocean, to the South Indian Ocean, east of the Kerguelen Islands. This video begins as the ISS travels southeast from eastern Africa over the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The first land we see is that of the Mauritius and Reunion Islands east of Madagascar. The pass continues over the Indian Ocean, where there are heavy clouds blocking the view of the water. Finally, the Aurora Australis begins to appear, as well as a faded view of the Milky Way. 2nd Segment: The sequence of shots was taken March 4, 2012 from 17:19:17 to 17:27:10 GMT, on a pass over the South Indian Ocean. This video again focuses on the Aurora Australis as the ISS passes over the South Indian Ocean, from northeast of the Kerugelen Islands to south of Australia. The streaks of the aurora are very visible and active in this video, as the ISS passes right over the green lights. 3rd Segment: The sequence of shots was taken March 10, 2012 from 14:49:58 to 15:05:37 GMT, on a pass from the South Indian Ocean to southeast New Zealand. This video mainly focuses on the Aurora Australis over the Southern Hemisphere. As the ISS traveled southeast and then northeast, the crew captured the bands of the Aurora Australis as the Milky Way made an appearance in the star field. Credit: NASA ISS/JSC/Science@NASA