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NASA Video: Rare giant solar tornado caught on tape

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Published on Mar 29, 2012

A giant solar tornado - five times the Earth's diameter - swirling at incredible speed of some 186,000 mph has been captured on video by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

­This is the first time giant solar twister has been caught on video.

Solar tornadoes, known as solar prominences, are shaped by the sun's magnetic field and often occur during coronal mass ejections -- huge explosions of solar plasma. The speed of swirling solar gases can sometimes reach several thousand miles per hour.

This 124,000-mile-tall tornado was filmed on September 25, 2011, but the video was only released to the public at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester (UK) on Thursday.

Xing Li, an astronomer at Aberystwyth University in Wales, believes the finding is a "real gem of an event to fire the imagination, and it is a good way to study magnetic structures in the sun's atmosphere."

Scientists believe that study of solar tornadoes will help understand the causes of space storms in general, which is still one of the great mysteries of our solar system.

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