HOUSTON — NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured some truly wild weather on the surface of the sun, a "solar tornado" as tall as 14 Earths.
The satellite watched the titanic twister grow for three days as it swirled across the sun's north pole, reaching a height of around 75,000 miles on March 18.
NASA said the tornado then collapsed into a cloud of magnetized gas, launching plasma and solar material into the solar system. Thankfully, SpaceWeather.com reported that the plasma will not affect Earth.
The Weather Network said "solar prominences" like this form due to magnetic field lines on the surface of the sun. Electrically charged solar plasma, made up of superheated hydrogen and helium gas, is pulled away from the sun's surface by the magnetic field, where the field lines cause it to spin in a "tornado-like" fashion.
Arizona Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy captured some incredible footage of the solar tornado, which he shared to Twitter.
While the effects of this solar event will not be felt on Earth, the Solar Dynamics Observatory did recently share a photo of a "coronal hole" on the sun, a massive area of the sun's surface that is significantly cooler and darker than the rest.
NASA said solar winds from this "hole" are expected to reach Earth, and will reportedly cause some particularly vibrant aurora borealis across the northern hemisphere.
Live Science reported that spectacular events such as this one are likely becoming more common as solar activity ramps up as the sun nears the "solar maximum", a peak in its 11-year solar cycle. The next solar maximum is predicted by NASA for 2025.
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