It's five times the size of the Earth! If the size of this solar tornado doesn't scare the pants off you, the temperature of it should. This solar twister is made from gas ranging from 90,000 to 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Sure, you saying. It's the sun — it's supposed to be hot. Clearly we're going to have to throw out some more numbers to
terrify impress you.
This monster stretched 125,000 miles off the sun's surface, and the winds were around 186,000 per hour for the three hours it lasted. Not that we don't fully respect the tornadoes here on Earth, but most only reach speeds of around 100 miles per hour. (That said, as pointed out in the comments below, they can get pretty fast, too).
Solar tornadoes are often precursors to coronal mass ejections. Like a flare up on a giant barbeque, an enormous eruption of charged particles will burst off the sun's surface. It's believed that interactions in the sun's magnetic field lines cause the twisting movements that escalate into tornadoes and in some cases the coronal mass ejections.
This uber-tornado was discovered by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite. It was captured in September 2011 and is thought to be the first one ever filmed. Smaller tornadoes have been spotted, including one little old Earth sized one filmed earlier this year (video embedded below).
Fortunately, I must have slept through this mother of all solar tornadoes back in September, and I still have all my skin and hair so I'm assuming aside from a few dropped calls the effects were minimal (though still nightmare inducing).
The images above were presented today in Manchester, England at the National Astronomy Meeting 2012. There's also the video below of another solar tornado from Space.com, with the description: "For a 30 hour spell (Feb 7-8, 2012) the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured plasma caught in a magnetic dance across the Sun's surface."