“Let’s talk about the polar vortex,” the message says. “Material from the northern prominence has just broken away from the main body and is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around our star’s north pole.”
Prominences are ejections of relatively cold gas that are held above the stellar surface by a magnetic field. As astronomer Scott McIntosh told Space.com, he had never seen such a large prominence, but there is nothing surprising in its formation. Astronomers have long noticed that at 55 degrees north latitude of the Sun, every 11-year solar cycle, a prominence appears and moves towards the pole. Astronomers suspect that this is somehow related to the change in the direction of the magnetic field lines of the Sun, but do not understand the exact reason for such phenomena. Pictures of this prominence were taken by NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.
The Sun’s polar regions play a key role in generating the star’s magnetic field, which in turn determines its 11-year activity cycle. At the same time, the poles of the Sun are inaccessible for direct observation: the Earth, other planets and spacecraft revolve around the star almost parallel to the equator.