Part of the sun broke off and we’ve never seen anything like it

Images of the vortex above the Sun, taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (Image: Dr. Tamitha Skov/Twitter)

Images of the vortex at the Sun’s north pole taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (Image: Dr. Tamitha Skov/Twitter)

Something strange just happened to the sun.

Observations by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) have shown this a piece of our parent star effectively broke away and formed a vortex over its north pole.

Material from a plasma filament that erupted from the Sun’s surface may swirl on the giant fireball in remarkable footage shared on social media.

Scientists say they need more analysis to determine if that’s exactly what happened, but they’ve never seen anything like it before.

“Implications for understanding the Sun’s atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated!” wrote space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov on Twitter, along with a time-lapse showing the vortex in action.

Despite the sun’s importance to everything on earth, we still don’t know too much about it.

What we do know is that it goes through cycles of activity roughly every 11 years, and currently its activity is increasing. That means it’s spewing more and more solar flares — including X-class ones, which are the biggest it’s capable of.

And so the appearance of a filament — also called a solar prominence — around the Sun’s north pole isn’t particularly notable, that it then “broke off” is very unusual.

Observations showed that the vortex orbited the sun’s pole at latitude 60 degrees over the course of about eight hours. Experts say it was moving at a speed of 60 miles per second.

The scenes were captured by the SDO spacecraft, which is observing the Sun’s dynamics to “improve understanding of the nature and sources of solar variability.”

SDO documents the Sun’s outer atmosphere — called the corona — as well as hot flare plasma.

It also produces amazing images of the sun showing the variations in radiation. NASA explains: “Hot active regions, solar flares and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here.

“The dark areas – called coronal holes – are places where very little radiation is emitted but are still the main source of solar wind particles.”

MORE : New ring system discovered around dwarf planet Quaoar in our solar system

MORE : A quarter of the sun was obscured in a solar eclipse this morning Part of the sun broke off and we've never seen anything like it

Justin Scaccy

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