For the first time, huge solar tornadoes have been filmed swirling deep inside the solar corona — the sun's superheated atmosphere. But if you're imagining the pedestrian tornadoes that we experience on Earth, think again.
These solar monsters, measuring the width of several Earths and swirling at speeds of up to 190,000 miles per hour, aren't only fascinating structures; they may also trigger violent magnetic eruptions that can have drastic effects on our planet.
In one example observed on Sept. 25, 2011, solar researchers from the UK used the high-definition cameras onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to track solar gases as hot as 2 million Kelvin (3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit) getting sucked from the bottom of a solar prominence and spiral high into the corona. The solar tornado then developed for three hours, gases traveling in spiral paths for around 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles).
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