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Scientists have discovered a huge chunk of the sun has broken off

Scientists have discovered a huge chunk of the sun has broken off

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope made the unprecedented observation.

Scientists have been left stumped after a piece of the sun’s surface broke off and began circling the sun’s north pole like a vortex.

God, maybe Chicken Little was right.

Earlier this week, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope made an unprecedented observation that has made scientists both concerned and excited.

Space weather forecaster Tamitha Shov shared a video sequence showing the intense whirlwind.

"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," she said.

"Implications for understanding the sun's atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated!" reported that a medium-sized, powerful solar flare even knocked out a shortwave radio over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday (February 7).

According to NASA, an eruptive solar prominence, also known as a filament, is a large, bright feature that extends outwards from the sun’s surface.

Prominences are anchored to the sun’s surface and extend outwards in the sun’s hot outer atmosphere - called the corona.

We have a bit of PTSD from that word but let's focus.


Prominences only take a day to form but can last in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space.

Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said that while he hasn't seen a vortex quite like this, something odd usually occurs with the sun's 55-degree latitudes once every solar cycle.

According to Mr McIntosh, solar eruptions and sunspots are to be expected as the sun is more active than ever during this time.

He told "Once every solar cycle, it forms at the 55-degree latitude and it starts to march up to the solar poles.

"It's very curious. There is a big 'why' question around it. Why does it only move toward the pole one time and then disappears and then comes back, magically, three or four years later in exactly the same region?"

While scientists know that filaments can tear away from the sun’s surface, they have yet to spot a whirlwind like this one.

However, researchers are limited with their observations as they don’t have access to the sun’s polar regions - which play an integral role in the solar magnetic cycle.

"We can only observe the sun from the ecliptic plane [the plane in which planets orbit]," McIntosh said.

However, with the Solar Orbiter mission from the European Space Agency underway, we might be closer to understanding how these prominences work.

Featured Image Credit: @TamithaSkov/Twitter. James Thew / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Space, NASA, Science