See a twister on the sun


A full-disk ultraviolet view of the sun, provided by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Thursday, highlights a huge coronal mass ejection on the left side of the disk and a sunspot toward the right side.

As the sun moves into the more dramatic half of its 11-year activity cycle, the pictures of our nearest star are looking more dramatic as well. This view, captured today by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, is a classic example: On the left edge of the disk, a huge twister is erupting into space. Or should that be an “untwister”? That’s what’s Tony Phillips argues, since the eruption resulted from the sudden untwisting of a magnetic filament on the sun’s surface. At its peak, the eruption towered 220,000 miles (350,000 kilometers into space), or nearly the distance between Earth and the moon. This video shows the twister in the midst of its untwisting. (Say that three times fast.)

Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait shows off what looks like a warmer, fuzzier sun. documented by astrophotographer Alan Friedman on Oct. 20. The fuzzy look to the sun and its prominences is due to the wavelength filter that was used to make the picture. Plait explains the process in depth — and says the result is “one of the most awesomely magnificent” pictures of the sun that he’s ever seen.

But wait … there’s more: Check out this chart of the sun’s magnetic field lines, courtesy of the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Take a look at the “kamikaze comet” tracked by the Solar and Helospheric Observatory. And feast your eyes on the “angry sun” featured in this month’s roundup of top cosmic images. Who says there’s nothing new under the sun?

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