A solar tornado large enough to 'swallow the Earth' explodes on the Sun; Will it spark a solar storm?

A massive 20,000 kilometers high solar tornado erupted on the Sun recently. With the rising solar activities, can it send a massive solar storm hurtling in the direction of Earth? Find out.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 13:27 IST
Solar Storm
Earth directed solar storm is feared after a massive solar tornado emerges on the surface of the Sun. (Representative Photo) (nasa.gov)
Solar Storm
Earth directed solar storm is feared after a massive solar tornado emerges on the surface of the Sun. (Representative Photo) (nasa.gov)

As we near the peak of the current solar cycle, also known as the solar maximum, in 2023, the Sun is getting more active than ever. Just last week, on June 21, a gigantic 20,000 kilometers wide solar tornado was spotted erupting on the surface of the Sun. This tornado was so huge, it was claimed that the vortex of the tornado could swallow the entire Earth. Usually such solar eruptions are part of solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CME) that often trigger solar storms on our planet. So, the question arises whether this solar tornado is also capable of causing something similar to the Earth. With the high-intensity of the eruption, if it were to generate a solar storm in the direction of our planet, it would cause some massive damage.

Solar tornadoes are not a new phenomenon. The Solar Dynamics Observatory of NASA has been observing it for years and it was debated at first whether it was truly a tornado or a misinterpretation of viewing a 3D object in 2D medium. As the Sun lacks an atmosphere like the Earth and no air pressure, tornadoes like Earth are not possible on the star. However, after multiple observations, the space agency came to the conclusion that the motion is indeed like a tornado. A solar tornado is described as an eruption of plasma that moves in a swirling pattern due to magnetic fields getting entangled within those areas.

Will the solar tornado trigger solar storms on Earth?

While a solar tornado in itself is not dangerous to the Earth given the large distance between the two celestial bodies, there was a risk that it could send powerful solar storms in the direction of the Earth. The solar prominence that caused the tornado works exactly like a solar flare where an unstable region of the Sun undergoes a combustion and pushes strong waves of solar material into the outer atmosphere of the star.

However, unlike a solar flare, the solar materials are not released into space to travel outwards in a solar tornado. The strong magnetic fields pull it back and make it swirl to give a tornado-like appearance and afterwards, all the solar material falls back to the surface. As a result, there are no solar storms causing particles that were unleashed in the direction of the Earth. It should be noted that if the tornado did release the charged particles towards the Earth, it could have resulted in a high-intensity solar storm that could have damaged the satellites and disrupted communication on Earth.

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First Published Date: 28 Jun, 08:57 IST