Solar Section        

 
 

April 13, 2017

“Tornados” on the Sun

“Tornados” on the Sun happen many times, but you need some luck to observe one, and even more luck to capture an animation. ALPO member Theo Ramakers had this luck on March 3 2011 during his normal Solar imaging session. When observing a nice heart shaped prominence at the Eastern Limb, an area which were to become Active Region 1166, he noticed that the plasma was moving rapidly and changing the shape. His instinct told him to start a one hour imaging session, in which he captured 54 images between 15:18 and 16:19 UT. After processing, he built an animated gif, showing the rotation which you can see here.
http://www.alpo-astronomy.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=13571
In order to imagine the speed at which it rotates, please note that the top of the tornado is almost 60,000 miles wide and the animation captures 1 hour of rotation. It is also interesting to note that the base of the tornado shifts during the one hour and seems to “walk” the surface of the active region. Below three images, the first one is a composite of 6 of the 54 images taken, showing the movement of the plasma, the second gives a view of the tornado against an inverted full solar disk image of the Sun, and the last one an image of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory AIA camera at 304 nm, twenty minutes before the capturing of the animation images was started, and the “tornado” clearly can be seen already.

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