"It's very curious."
The Sun apparently got a little goofy as scientists observed a small, strange chunk of it break off and doing a little jig.
As Space.com reports, this rare "polar vortex" was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory earlier in February — and beyond that observation, scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what was going on here.
Talk about Polar Vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our Star. Implications for understanding the Sun's atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated! pic.twitter.com/1SKhunaXvP
— Dr. Tamitha Skov (@TamithaSkov) February 2, 2023
According to Scott McIntosh, the deputy director of Boulder, Colorado's National Center for Atmospheric Research, this fascinating filament is seemingly the first of its kind and may have to do with another bizarre observation: a "hedgerow in the solar plasma," as the solar physicist told Space.com, that occurs at exactly 55 degrees latitude at the Sun's poles once per the star's 11-year sunspot cycle.
"Once every solar cycle, it forms at the 55 degree latitude and it starts to march up to the solar poles," McIntosh told the space website. "It's very curious. There is a big 'why' question around it. Why does it only move toward the pole one time and then disappears and then comes back, magically, three or four years later in exactly the same region?"
While scientists have seen filaments break off of the Sun before, they've never seen one turn back in on itself and form a strange whirlwind quite like this one.
Just a few days after this funny little filament was spotted, two back-to-back solar flares that were powerful enough to knock out short-wave radios on Earth were also spotted on the Sun — but those were less noteworthy, if only because we're in the active period of the Sun's 11-year cycle, when these sorts of flares and fanfares occur with more regularity.
This filament eruption from today gives us a fascinating view of the filament's cool, dense plasma being lifted through the hot, tenuous corona as it is trapped within an insulating magnetic flux rope. Shown here is a combination of 171 and 304 Å imagery from SDO/AIA. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/MKtOmoH6AO
— Trestan Simon (@TrestanSimon) February 7, 2023
Given the timing, we're surely in for more solar treats in the coming years — and hopefully, they won't mess with our Terran communications too much.
More on the Sun: Amazing Video Shows Huge “Snake” Slithering Across the Sun’s Surface
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