The sun’s surface material breaking off and creating a tornado-like whirl around its northern pole has perplexed scientists.
Dr Tamitha Skov, a space weather forecaster, tweeted about the phenomenon that was captured by NASA using the James Webb Space Telescope.
“Talk about Polar Vortex!” she wrote last week. “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!”
Unusual activity typically occurs at the sun’s 55 degree latitudes once every 11-year solar cycle, according to experts, but this incident is stumping researchers.
According to specialists, unusual activity usually occurs near the sun’s 55 degree latitudes during per 11-year solar cycle, but this episode has scientists baffled.
A prominence is a noticeable feature that projects outward from the surface of the sun. Previous filament tear-aways have been seen, but not on this scale.
According to Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and the deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, no one knows what triggers such an unusual event.
“Once every solar cycle, it forms at the 55 degree latitude and it starts to march up to the solar poles,” McIntosh told Space.com. “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 experts admit it probably has something to do with the sun’s magnetic field, the rest remains a mystery due to humanity’s limited view of its star. Scientists can only view the sun from the “ecliptic plane,” or the geometric plane that contains the orbit of Earth.