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Imagine a pipe as wide as a state and as long as half the Earth. Now imagine that this pipe is full of hot gas in motion, at 50,000 kilometers per hour. Even more; imagine that the pipe is not made of metal, but of a transparent magnetic field. You are viewing one of the thousands of spicules of solar activity.
In the picture you can see the image with the perhaps highest resolution ever achieved of these mysterious solar flow tubes. The spicules dot the photo of the active solar region 10,380, which crossed the Sun in June 2004, and is particularly evident in the carpet of dark tubes on the right.
Some sequences of images at intervals of time have revealed that the spicules last about five minutes, starting as high-rise tubes that quickly raise the gas, and that they fade away when the gas reaches its maximum height and falls back towards the Sun. images also indicate that the ultimate cause of the spicules are waves, similar to those of sound, that flow through the surface of the Sun and pass through the solar atmosphere.
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