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Posted at 06:30 PM ET, 02/23/2012

A cosmic hurricane and a tornado on the sun: extreme space weather

Artistic rendering of the black hole IGR J17091 pulling gas away from a companion star (NASA/CXC/M.Weiss )
I’m not sure which is more impressive: a twister the size of a planet on the sun or a wind gust of 20 million miles per hour off a black hole in outer space. But NASA has recently documented both of these phenomena.

Cosmic hurricane

The cosmic hurricane, so to speak, illustrated above, arose from the black hole known as IGR J17091, sucking gas from an adjacent star.

“This gas forms a disk of hot gas around the black hole, and the wind is driven off this disk,” NASA said.

NASA reports its Chandra X-ray observatory measured the highest wind speed on record from a disk off this particular black hole. How high? 20 million mph or three percent of the speed of light.

“This is nearly ten times faster than had ever been seen from a stellar-mass black hole, and matches some of the fastest winds generated by supermassive black holes, objects millions or billions of times more massive,” NASA said.

Tornado on the sun

The solar twister was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory on February 7-8. It’s not really a tornado, but twisting plasma. You can see a video below.

Video of twisting plasma on the sun, courtesy NASAexplorer channel on YouTube.

Here’s NASA’s explanation of the video:

...darker, cooler plasma slid and shifted back and forth above the Sun’s surface seen here for 30 hours in extreme ultraviolet light. An active region rotating into view provides a bright backdrop to the gyrating streams of plasma. The particles are being pulled this way and that by competing magnetic forces. They are tracking along strands of magnetic field lines.

By  |  06:30 PM ET, 02/23/2012

Categories:  Astronomy, Latest, Space

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