NASA scientists spotted a strange solar vortex near the Sun’s northern pole. The vortex appears to be part of a huge filament of solar plasma that broke away from the Sun’s surface and is now circling the north pole like a tornado. Unfortunately, scientists have no idea what caused the vortex.
Attention was first brought to the strange solar vortex when Dr. Tamitha Skov posted on Twitter, sharing images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. While it is exciting, the cause of the vortex does have many scratching their heads in bewilderment.
The vortex itself appeared above the 55-degree latitude. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen it. Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told Space.com that the solar vortex appears at that exact place every solar cycle.
However, this is the first time astronomers have seen a vortex of this caliber, which is why it has so many excited.
The sun follows an 11-year solar cycle, and according to McIntosh, this vortex has appeared at the 55-degree latitude mark once every single cycle we have observed. As such, many astronomers believe the solar vortex could have something to do with how the Sun reverses its magnetic field.
McIntosh said that many astronomers have questioned why the vortex appears at that spot, only to move toward the pole and vanish, then to reappear three to four years later in the same spot it did before. Could the solar vortex play some part in how the Sun’s cycle plays out?
Hopefully, upcoming missions like the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter can help shed some light on these phenomena, as well as the massive sunspots that astronomers have discovered across the surface of the Sun.
With more data, we could come to a proper understanding of how our star works and why it does the things it does. That, in turn, could help us better predict solar flares and other cosmic events that threaten our world.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings