The video: For the first time ever, a massive solar tornado was caught on camera, dramatizing the hellish power of the sun. This isn't a garden variety twister: This gargantuan writhing mass of super-scorching gas, many times the width of our planet, extended 125,000 miles from the sun's surface, or about half the distance between the Earth and the moon, and its temperature ranged from 90,000 to 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit. And while our tornados top out at 150 miles per hour, this monster — referred to by scientists as a "beast" — reached an estimated speed of 186,000 miles per hour. Solar Dynamics Laboratory captured the twister on camera in February 2012, and presented their findings, including the video below, at the National Astronomy Meeting in the UK this week.
The reaction: Make no mistake about it: This gigantic twister "could swallow five Earths" easily, says Adam Mann at Wired. It's admittedly huge, study co-author Xing Li, an astronomer at Aberystwyth University in Wales, tells National Geographic. But really, it's "the beauty of this tornado which has grabbed us — the ethereal, strange dance of blobs of plasma trapped in the sun's tangled magnetic field." Take a look:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The forgotten victims of the war in Ukraine
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
- 10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Blame Obama and U.S. evangelicals for the persecution of Iraqi Christians
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Are there too many good shows on television?
Subscribe to the Week