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Nothing like a good old planet-sized tornado on the surface of our Sun to make you feel tiny and insignificant on a Monday morning.
Amateur astronomy photographer @chucksastro shared a one-year-old image of Sun’s battling surface yesterday and it is impossible not to feel small when the tornado-captured alone is as big as our planet Earth.
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The stunning footage reveals our Sun in its magnificence: a hot fiery ball of heated gas with no solid surface that is always moving.
What is a Solar Tornado?
A tornado on Earth is a fear-inducing weather event on its own; however, when they are on the surface of Sun they become something else altogether. Solar tornadoes are made up of solar gases that swirl deep within the Sun's atmosphere and generally spin at up to 190,000 miles per hour.
This image by the amateur astrophotographer shows our Sun on a relatively calm day.
Different from the tornadoes that we know, solar tornadoes are magnetic events. They involve superheated gasses being sucked up from the star towards its atmosphere and these gasses carry magnetic fields and electrical currents in their trail.
Every now and then, tornadoes bigger than Jupiter can send gas and energy flowing deep into space; luckily, they drop to incredibly low densities before they reach the Earth and beyond.
Reddit user @chucksastro, whose real name is Chuck Ayoub, was searching the rim of the sun for activity when the flare of the tornado happened. Apparently, he set up at exactly the right time to capture it, in which he calls simply his “dumb luck”.
I captured a Tornado on the Sun from my backyard. It lasted for 2 hours before it vanished. from r/space
The active prominence was filmed in a time-lapse video taken over a period of a two hour period in May 2018. Ayoub ran the footage backward and forwards to achieve a smooth transition.
The footage will probably remind you of that Soundgarden song we all know so well and there is a reason for that. The Sun's surface was blocked out to get the storm details on the edge as sharp as possible. This enabled it to be imaged in great detail.
And with great detail it truly is, the two-hour-long tornado shows the Sun's surface swirling over with hot plasma in a constant battle between unstable magnetic fields and constant gravity.
According to Nasa, the featured prominence rises over the Sun's surface about one Earth-diameter. A storm bigger than the Earth itself: quite hard to imagine, but guaranteed to give you existential crisis nonetheless.
The lucky footage was chosen the "Astronomy Picture of the Day" by NASA on 18 June 2018, a month after it was captured.
Ayoub used an Orion ED80T CF telescope with a ZWO ASI183MM to capture the image. He stated that the animation consists of 135 frames over a period of 2 hours and 15 minutes running at 19 frames per second.
Moreover, his Youtube channel is a hidden gem for all the amateur astronomy photography enthusiasts out there.
You can also check out his Instagram page @chucksastrophotography for more astronomy-related content.