You know what’s scarier than a tornado? A tornado that’s five times wider than the earth. You know what’s scarier than a tornado five times wider than the earth? A tornado that’s on fire. A giant solar tornado was recently spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Xing Li of Aberystwyth University in Wales, who analyzed the footage of the solar tornado, said:
“This is perhaps the first time that such a huge solar tornado is filmed by an imager… Previously, much smaller solar tornadoes were found by the [NASA/European Space Agency] SOHO satellite. But they were not filmed.”
The Huffington Post reports that the giant solar tornado spun solar gas at speeds higher than 185,000 mph. For comparison, the largest tornadoes on earth have speeds of about 300 mph.
“The structure is huge … and the velocity of the material is several tens to hundreds of thousands of kilometers per hour… It is a real gem of an event to fire the imagination—and it is a good way to study magnetic structures in the sun’s atmosphere.”
In addition to the incredible fast winds, the solar tornado also involved gasses as hot as 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.
The solar tornado may look similar to an earthly tornado but National Geographic reports that the two tornadoes are caused be extremely different forces. Earth toranadoes are caused by wind while tornadoes on the sun are caused by complicated magnetic forces.
National Geographic writes:
“(Solar tornadoes are caused) by spiral-shaped magnetic structures that rise from the sun and are rooted to the solar surface at both ends.”
Here are two videos of the solar tornado.