A simulation of a sun tornado that heats up the sun's atmosphere to millions of degrees. (Photo : University of Sheffield)
Giant space tornadoes spinning from the surface of the sun have been found to power the sun's atmosphere to millions of kelvin. The findings could help us on Earth create more efficient and cleaner energy.
These space tornadoes are more than 1,000 miles wide and apparently as many as 11,000 of them exist on the sun's surface at any given time. They carry energy from the "convection zone" beneath the sun's surface all the way to the atmosphere through magnetic fields. The scientists from the University of Sheffield observed them through space and ground telescopes.
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"We report here the discovery of ubiquitous magnetic solar tornadoes and their signature in the hottest areas of the Sun's atmosphere where the temperature is a few millions of degree kelvin, about thousands of kilometers from the Sun's surface. This is a major step in the field," said Professor Robertus Erdélyi from the University of Sheffield's School of Mathematics and Statistics.
He hopes that by understanding the mechanism of these giant tornadoes, the technique could be put into practice here on Earth.
"It is understood that the energy originates from below the Sun's surface, but how this massive amount of energy travels up to the solar atmosphere surrounding it is a mystery. We believe we have found evidence in the form of rotating magnetic structures -- solar tornadoes -- that channel the necessary energy in the form of magnetic waves to heat the magnetized solar plasma. It is hoped that the process could be replicated here on Earth one day to energize plasma in tokamak that are believed to be a future device to produce completely clean energy."
To read the study, click here.