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Giant Tornadoes Seen Erupting From the Sun
from National Geographic News
The sun produces giant tornado-like jets that stretch thousands of miles into space, new satellite data shows. The solar tornadoes typically last about ten minutes and occur near the sun's poles.
"These solar tornadoes are almost a thousand times faster than a terrestrial tornado and are very big," said Spiros Patsourakos, a researcher at George Mason University.
Scientists have known since the 1990s that jets of gas wider than North America were erupting from the sun's poles, but it is only now that they discovered these jets are rotating. That's because a new pair of NASA satellites called STEREO allowed the features to be observed from two directions at once, revealing their three-dimensional structures.
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PODCASTS: From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays
Cosmic rays have mysterious qualities about them that scientists continue to research in order to better understand their origins and composition. Dr. Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues, fly enormous balloons as large as a football stadium and a volume of 40-million-cubic feet for extended periods over Antarctica to study particles coming from cosmic rays before they break up in the atmosphere.
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