No, A huge chunk of the sun didn’t break off

Recently, reports have been published in several international media under the title “huge chunk of the sun has collapsed”.

What is written in the claim?

Rumor Scanner found three specific claims in the published reports. 

Claim 1

A large chunk has broken off from the Sun’s surface, creating a cyclone-like situation around its north pole. 

Screenshot source: NDTV

Claim 2

NASA’s James Webb Telescope captured this image of the Sun.

Screenshot source: New York Post

Claim 3

Dr. Tamitha Skov, who shared the image of the sun on her Twitter handle, is a NASA official.

Screenshot source: Desh Rupantor 

See some reports published in the media of different countries around the world – Desh Rupantor (Bangladesh), Kaler Kantho (Bangladesh),  New York Post (USA), news.com.au (Australia), Daily Star (UK), NDTV (India), The Star (Kenya)

Check out some of the Facebook posts circulating with the same claim here (archive), here (archive) and here (archive).

Screenshot source: Facebook 

Check out some of the Youtube Videos circulating with the same claim here (archive), here (archive) and here (archive).

Screenshot source: YouTube

Fact Check

According to the rumor scanner’s investigation, The media claim that a part of the Sun has collapsed is not correct. Rather recently the Sun’s prominence or plasma has been separated and is moving towards the North Pole of the Sun. But no part of the sun is “broken”. This phenomenon of plasma is a normal process. Moreover, the claim that Dr. Tamitha is a NASA official and the photo was taken by the James Webb Telescope is also incorrect

What did Tamitha Skov say in her tweet? 

A tweet by a woman named Dr. Tamitha Skov was used as the source of information for the spreading reports. Based on this information, a tweet published on February 3 was found on Tamitha Skov’s account on Twitter.

Screenshot source: Twitter  

She wrote in the tweet, “Talk about Polar Vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our Star. Implications for understanding the Sun’s atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated!” 

A prominence is a gaseous region that appears bright against a dark background, and a filament is a darkened region within the bright part of the Sun. However, the two regions are similar and are part of the arc plasma trapped by the magnetic field of the Sun’s atmosphere. Prominence is therefore also called plasma

That is, the filament is a large region of very dense, cool gas, bound by a magnetic field. Filaments usually appear dark. But if they appear at the “edge” of the Sun, they appear brighter than the dark outer space behind them. Then they are called Prominence.

Screenshot source: UCAR

According to another tweet on February 4 on the same topic on Dr.Tamitha’sTwitter account, this polar vortex took 8 hours to orbit the pole at approximately 60° degree latitude.

Screenshot source: Twitter  

While space.com is the source of the news 

After Dr. Tamitha’s two tweets, an article published on the same topic on February 5 was found on the website of the international organization ‘Space’, which publishes articles on related topics including space and astronomy.

The report says, “A huge filament of solar plasma has broken off the sun’s surface and is circling its north pole like a vortex of powerful winds, but scientists have no clue what caused it.”

Screenshot source: Space

According to McIntosh, deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a research and development agency funded by the US federal government, the report said, “Once every solar cycle, it forms at the 55 degree latitude and it starts to march up to the solar poles. It’s very curious. There is a big ‘why’ question around it. Why does it only move toward the pole one time and then disappears and then comes back, magically, three or four years later in exactly the same region?”

Screenshot source: Space  

According to the report, the circulated video was taken from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory.

Screenshot source: Space  

Reading the reports published in the media, it can be seen that most of the media have published the news based on the report of ‘Space’.

But while Space.com says the image of the sun was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory mission, various media outlets claim that the image of the sun was taken by NASA’s James Webb Telescope.

Is the image taken by the James Webb telescope? 

If you look at the image of the sun used in the tweet, it says ‘SDO/AIA 304’ at the bottom. The date written on the side is February 2, 2023.

Screenshot source: Twitter 

Based on the information, by keyword search, We found a similar image on the website of the US space research agency ‘NASA’. 

According to the NASA website, SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) is a solar observation mission of NASA that has been operating since 2010.

SDO conducts three types of scientific research. One of these is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). It images the solar atmosphere at multiple wavelengths to link changes on the Sun’s surface with changes in the interior.

Screenshot source: NASA

That is, the image of the Sun taken by NASA’s SDO/AIA mission. But the media is claiming that the picture was taken by NASA’s James Webb Telescope. 

According to the investigation, the James Webb Telescope, launched in 2021, searches for distant galaxies in space using infrared rays. It is not the telescope’s job to study or photograph the Sun.

Screenshot source: NASA

That is, the media is spreading misinformation about the source of the discussed image. 

What actually happened to the sun?

In a video blog post published on the creator platform ‘Patron’ on February 10, Dr. Tamitha said that the media has badly distorted the truth by using his tweet.

Screenshot source: Patron 

In the blog post she adds her YouTube video on the matter, where she graphically shows (from 04:00 minutes) how the prominence material has moved away from the main filament and is circulating in a polar vortex at the Sun’s north pole.

In the description part of the same video, she wrote,“This vortex has now been cited in many media outlets as “a piece of the Sun breaks off” but dont believe the hype. It is all part of the perfectly normal and stunning solar ballet! Turning towards the weather, we are still coming down from some fast solar wind that brought us to storm levels for a short while and is bringing some nice aurora to mid-latitudes, but things should calm down over the weekend.”

Screenshot source: YouTube 

Dr. Tamitha made a post about this on her Instagram account on February 13. In this post, she also gave the same information and added that the SDO is being promoted as NASA’s James Webb Telescope.

Screenshot source: Instagram  

Skov also added a photo to her Instagram post, showing a Forbes report on a laptop screen.

We found the report on the website of US media, ‘Forbes’. 

The report published on February 11 also mentioned the same topic.

Screenshot source: Forbes  

Forbes spoke to Dr. Tamitha Skov. According to the report, A normal “prominence” on the Sun was spotted doing something unusual. A solar prominence is loop of electrically charged gas called plasma, which often spout out of the Sun. It’s possible to see them with the naked eye during the totality phase of a total solar eclipse.

Forbes wrote, What happened on Feb. 2 was that a prominence became detached (or “broke away” as Skov unfortunately described it) then whirled around above the Sun’s north pole. No part of the Sun “broke off”—prominences are everyday occurrences—but the fact that the filament then swirled around the polar region of the Sun makes this a rare event.

Screenshot source: Forbes 

The Forbes report also explains why it is not possible for the James Webb Telescope to record such events on the Sun.

According to Forbes, JWST is the most ambitious and complex space science telescope ever constructed, with a massive 6.5-meter primary mirror that’s able to detect the faint light of far-away stars and galaxies.

Permanently pointed away from the Sun, JWST has an enormous and complex Sun shield to prevent any sunlight from getting near is optics or even slightly heating its optics. If JWST was pointed at the Sun its optics would be completely destroyed.

Forbes also mentions Space.com’s conversation with Dr. Scott McIntosh. 

We contacted Dr. Scott McIntosh on behalf of the Rumor Scanner team. He also said, “It is a common phenomenon but what makes the phenomenon spectacular is the circular nature of the polar vortex.”

Stating that it is not possible for any part of the Sun to collapse, he said, “They cannot fall or disappear under the pull of the Sun’s gravity. They move to other parts of the Sun, as happened in this case.”

An image published on NASA’s website in 2013 also saw an almost identical phenomenon, where the Sun’s prominence, or plasma eruption, was captured. Such eruptions are pulled back into the Sun by the Sun’s gravity, NASA said.

Screenshot source: NASA 

Is Dr. Tamitha Skov a NASA official?

Media reports have claimed Dr. Tamitha Skov as a NASA official. 

But upon investigation, we found that Dr. Tamitha identified herself as a space weather physicist in her Twitter account bio and tagged television from several organizations, including NASA.

Dr. Tamitha has an organization called ‘Space Weather Woman’. It is said about her on the organization’s website, She serves in an official capacity on proposal review and outreach panels for various civilian and government agencies, including NASA. 

Later, we observed her LinkedIn profile. She is currently working as a professor at ‘Millersville University of Pennsylvania’ in the United States and on the Exploratory Committee for Space Weather Certifications at the ‘American Meteorological Society’. Moreover, NASA’s name was not found in the list of her previous jobs.

Screenshot collage: Rumor Scanner 

That is, the claim that Dr. Tamitha Skov is a NASA official is incorrect.

Bottom Line

On February 3, space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov said in a tweet on her Twitter account that material from the Sun’s Northern Prominence has broken away from the main filament and is now circulating in a giant polar vortex at the Sun’s north pole. This information is being claimed in the media as a part of the Sun breaking off. But the investigation revealed that a prominence or plasma of the sun is separated and moves towards the north pole of the sun. But no part of the sun is “broken”. This phenomenon of plasma is a normal process. Moreover, the claim that Dr. Tamitha is a NASA official and that the photo was taken by the James Webb Telescope is also incorrect

So, The news being circulated in the media claiming that a part of the sun has broken off is misleading.

Sources

RS Team
RS Team
Rumor Scanner Fact-Check Team
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