Researchers at NASA were left baffled when they observed a massive chunk of the Sun’s surface break off and form a vortex around its North Pole. This never before seen phenomenon has the space community in a state of shock, and scientists are still trying to understand what impact this event will have on Earth, and when.
Solar Prominence Sparks A Polar Vortex<
Space weather forecaster Tamitha Skov recently shared a video sequence to Twitter that shows a huge filament of solar plasma breaking free from the Sun’s surface and creating a tornado-like whirl around its North Pole.
“Talk about polar vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our star,” she tweeted of the footage, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
What Does This Mean For The Sun?
Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com that this phenomenon is similar to a “hedgerow in the solar plasma” that arises in the same position near the sun’s polar crown every 11 years. The ejection of solar material, sunspots, solar radiation, and solar flares vary over this time period.
“It originates at 55 degrees latitude once every solar cycle and begins to march north to the solar poles,” McIntosh said to Space.com. “It’s pretty strange. It raises a lot of ‘why’ questions. Why does it only migrate towards the pole once before disappearing and reappearing three or four years later in the same region?”
Though the event is unique and unprecedented, the implications for understanding the sun’s atmospheric processes are far-reaching. Scientists are still attempting to figure out what this event means for the Sun, and how it will affect Earth.