On February 2, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a mysterious event in which a massive filament of plasma appeared to have broken away from the sun and whirled in a tornado-like vortex around its north pole.
On Twitter, space weather expert Tamitha Skov stated, “Talk about Polar Vortex,” adding that it appeared from the telescope footage to be a solar prominence, which is a sizable, bright filament that extends from the sun but is anchored to its surface. However, in this instance, it appears that a portion of the filament detached and started whipping itself in a circle around the north pole of our star.
Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an email to Insider, “I have never seen anything like it. He continued, “That doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t happened before.”
McIntosh told Space.com that an 11-year solar cycle’s worth of solar prominences appear in the same location, at 55 degrees latitude, even though he hasn’t yet seen the vortex. The exact mechanism causing it is unknown, but it’s probably connected to the sun’s magnetic field reversing every solar cycle. It also seems to have created a mysterious vortex last week.
The north pole of the sun is becoming more and more active.
More plasma seemed to be swirling at the solar north pole on Friday morning. Cool plasma that is accumulating at the pole of the sun’s surface appears to be preparing to erupt into space. This activity is “possibly more typical and a lot less swirly than the event we saw last week,” McIntosh said. That occurs about once every ten years.
None of these eruptions are directed at Earth because they are all occurring at the north pole of the sun, which means they won’t interfere with GPS and radio signals like some solar explosions can.
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