Watch a massive solar twister that could consume Earth five times

Contributed by
Dec 16, 2012

It's easy to think of the sun as little more than that yellow thing up in the sky that looks kinda nice when it sets, but every once in a while we get a reminder of its awesome star power that puts us in our place. The folks at NASA now have a high-powered satellite trained on the center of our solar system, and it's captured a solar tornado so big it could burn five Earths to ashes in a second.

Solar tornadoes are basically just rushing, swirling masses of superheated gas. They generally precede events known as "coronal mass ejections," massive eruptions of charged particles from the sun's surface. All this activity is thought to be caused by the magnetic field lines on the sun, but what's really fascinating is just how powerful these twisters can be.

Even at its coolest, the gas that makes up this bad boy is a balmy 90,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At its hottest it can reach 3.6 MILLION degrees. Yes, you read that right, and all the suntan lotion in the world can't save you. Over a three-hour period the twister reached a height of 125,000 miles, about half the distance between the Earth and the moon, and reached speeds of nearly 186,000 miles per hour. In case you were wondering, that's 1,860 times the average speed of the tornadoes we have here.

The images of this behemoth were captured last September by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite, and that time-lapse you're seeing is the first time such an event has ever been filmed. Since then the observatory has captured even more solar awesomeness, though at a slightly smaller scale. The video below is more detailed footage of another twister, this one only big enough to incinerate one Earth into oblivion.

Pretty awesome, right? Now we just have to make sure Michael Bay doesn't see this and get any ideas.

(Via Wired)