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An image of one of a dozen such tornadoes found by SOHO. The lighter right-hand side is material that is moving towards SOHO. The darker left-hand side is material that is moving away from SOHO (the doppler effect).
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Tornadoes on the Sun!
News story originally written on May 1, 1998

There just seem to be so many exciting things happening in space these days (and for the last year in fact!). One new discovery is that there are storms on the Sun very similar to our own tornadoes! This discovery was made by ESA/NASA spacecraft SOHO.

SOHO has spotted a dozen of these gyrating storms so far. It seems they occur most frequently at the poles of the Sun. These storms are as wide as the whole of planet Earth and have gusts ten times faster than anything measured on Earth! Doesn't seem as if we're in Kansas anymore!

Also, happening on the Sun...There seems to have been a coronal mass ejection two days ago. X-ray fluxes at Earth have been extremely high. Activity like this on the Sun can often disrupt radio communications. It can cause pilots to lose contact with their control towers and even disorient migratory anmals that depend on the Earth's magnetic field for guidance. The space weather forecast for the next few days is unsettled to active.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA