Magnetic Tornadoes

This lab is a physical model of what happens on Mercury when two magnetic fields collide and form magnetic tornadoes.

You’ll get to investigate what an invisible magnetic tornado looks like when it sweeps across Mercury.


  • Two clear plastic bottles (2 liter soda bottles work best)
  • Steel washer with a 3/8 inch hole
  • Ruler and stopwatch
  • Glitter or confetti (optional)
  • Duct tape (optional)
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9 Responses to “Magnetic Tornadoes”
  1. catherine_pruitt says:


  2. Aurora says:

    Try it and tell me what happens! (That’s what a real scientist would do…) 🙂

  3. Tyler says:

    what would happen if you took out the washer and stuck them together?

  4. Aurora says:

    It sounds like you’re not logged in. I’ll have Tonya connect with you asap.

  5. Kelly Deibler says:

    Ever time we log in there no videos…Kind of feel like this program is not as user friendly as it could be…My kids love science and so sad they hav missed out this year…

  6. Aurora says:

    Wow – that’s awesome! This experiment is a visual for kids to see what a tornado looks like, especially when you add glitter to it. The tornadoes on Mercury are shaped like this (like a corkscrew). Tornadoes on earth form from different temperature and pressure regions in our atmosphere. On Mercury, they form from the interaction between the solar wind from the sun and Mercury’s magnetic field. You can read more about it here:

  7. Marie Hutt says:

    Hi Aurora,
    We had a lot of fun doing the experiment! We used sugar, salt, glitter, oil, vinegar, and alcohol. It took about 10 sec for the run through with just plain water, and 13-14 seconds for the run throughs with added ingredients. We get that each added ingredient is supposed to represent a change in atmosphere, but don’t quite get what we were supposed to learn from the overall experiment or how it relates to magnetic tornadoes on Mercury. Can you clarify? I’m also wondering where the kids are supposed to get the answers to the questions at the end of the lesson. They weren’t all answered in the reading that went with this experiment. I know you provided the answers on a separate sheet, but without looking at those answers where should the kids be looking?

  8. Aurora says:

    By magnetism! Here’s a NASA article you might find interesting with images from the Messenger mission!

  9. Dan Archer says:

    This is super interesting ho do the tornados form on mercury, though?

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