Astronomers have puzzled over where the heat comes from to warm the sun’s atmosphere. While the surface of the sun is a relatively cool 5,000 degrees, the atmosphere, called the corona, can be millions of degrees hotter.
A study of data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has led scientists to conclude that it could be huge vortices, called solar super-tornadoes, on the sun’s surface that are conducting the heat out to the corona. One of these vortices can be five times as wide as the entire Earth.
One of these mega-twisters can form where the sun’s magnetic field lines connect the surface of the sun to the low corona. The scientists have calculated that a solar super-tornado can transport the energy required to heat the corona to temperature that is observed.
Fourteen of these solar super-tornadoes have been directly observed, but there could be more than 10,000 present at any given moment, transporting energy up from the surface of the sun to its atmosphere.