Amazing Plasma Tornadoes on the Sun

At a distance of 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the Earth is the Sun – a 4.5 billion-year-old star at the center of our solar system. Without the Sun’s light and energy, life would not exist on Earth. Life is not present on the Sun itself due to its high temperature and radiation.

The Sun is mostly made of hydrogen and helium and is divided into many regions. From the inside to the outside, the regions of the Sun include the core, the radiative zone, the convection zone, the visible surface or photosphere, the chromosphere, the transition zone, and lastly the corona. The corona may be described as the growing outer atmosphere of the Sun.

The core is the hottest zone of the Sun. In the core, hydrogen fuses to form helium in a nuclear reaction. Energy from the core is carried outward by radiation through the radiative zones and the convection zones. Finally, large bubbles of hot plasma move upwards towards the photosphere. The photosphere is considered the visible surface of the Sun and is the region that emits the most light as seen from Earth. The photosphere, chromosphere, and corona of the Sun together form the Sun’s atmosphere.

Material leaving the corona of the Sun at extremely high speeds is called the solar wind. This forms a large magnetic space around the Sun, which is known as the heliosphere. The heliosphere is so large that it extends past the orbit of the planets in our solar system. Space outside the heliosphere is called interstellar space. Our planet Earth also exists inside this heliosphere, which is the Sun’s atmosphere.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory at NASA observes the Sun from space. The spacecraft constantly looks at the Sun’s invisible magnetic field and how it makes charged gas, also known as plasma, form patterns. However, these patterns on the Sun’s surface also appear as tornadoes. In February 2012, the SDO at NASA captured images of such rotating plasma tornadoes.

Scientists believe that plasma leaving the Sun is spinning because some of it moves towards Earth, while some of it moves away. If such a rotation is a reality, then it may be because of the numerous magnetic fields at the Sun’s surface. Want to know exactly what the SDO at NASA captured? Watch this video to see amazing plasma tornadoes on the Sun!

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 8.4

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 62.3

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