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Vast solar tornado spins on the sun
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.
Tornado Season On The Sun?
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For a 30 hour time frame on (Feb 7-8, 2012) the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured plasma caught in a magnetic dance across the Sun's surface. In this video, cooler plasma material appears as darker spots on a bright background. The SDO spacecraft recorded the video in the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum, giving the movie an eerie yellow hue.
NASA released the new SDO video to mark the second anniversary of the spacecraft's mission, which launched on Feb. 11, 2010. The $850 million spacecraft is on a five-year mission to record high-definition videos of the sun to help astronomers better understand how changes in the sun's solar weather cycle can affect life on Earth.
The sun is currently in an active period of its 11-year weather cycle. The current cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24 and will peak in 2013.