Astronomers from Aberystwyth University have discovered huge tornadoes on the surface of the sun, using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) telescope on board the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) satellite.

The discovery made on 25 September 2011 shows that the tornado carried superheated gases as hot as 50,000 - 2,000,000 Kelvin. The hot gases in the tornadoes have speeds as high as 300,000 km per hour. Gas speeds of terrestrial tornadoes can reach 150 km per hour.

According to the astronomers, the tornadoes often occur at the root of huge coronal mass ejections. When heading toward the earth, these coronal mass ejections can cause significant damage to the earth's space environment, satellites and even knock out the electricity grid.

The solar tornadoes drag winding magnetic field and electric currents into the high atmosphere. It is possible that the magnetic field and currents play a key role in driving the coronal mass ejections.

"This is perhaps the first time that such a huge solar tornado has been filmed by an imager. Previously much smaller solar tornadoes were found my SOHO satellite. But they were not filmed," says Dr. Xing Li, of Aberystwyth University.

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