A never-before-seen phenomenon that has confounded scientists has been filmed by NASA when a chunk of the sun’s northern pole broke off.
Footage shows a large plasma filament, or electrified gas, blasting out from the sun before splitting apart and spinning around in a “massive polar vortex.”
While puzzled, scientists believe that the prominence is related to the sun’s magnetic field reversal, which occurs during per solar cycle.
Space weather expert Tamitha Skov posted the video on Twitter and credited NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory for taking it.
Talk about Polar Vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our Star. Implications for understanding the Sun's atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated! pic.twitter.com/1SKhunaXvP
— Dr. Tamitha Skov (@TamithaSkov) February 2, 2023
‘Talk about polar vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our star,’ Skov shared in the tweet.
NASA describes solar filaments as clouds of charged particles that float above the sun, tethered to it by magnetic forces.
These appear as protruding, elongated strands from the sun’s surface.
Every 11 years, the Skov-mentioned prominence may be seen exactly at latitude 55 near the polar crowns of the sun.
According to Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and the deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, “it develops near the 55-degree latitude and begins to march up to the solar poles once a solar cycle.”
‘It’s very curious. There is a big ‘why’ question around it. Why does it only move toward the pole one time and then disappear and then come back, magically, three or four years later in exactly the same region?’
While filaments separating from the sun have been seen before, this is the first instance of one whirling across the area.