Solar Orbiter captures snake crawling across Sun surface: What is it?

November 18, 2022  19:29

In a new video shot by the Solar Orbiter automatic solar research spacecraft, you can see an unusual "snake" 'slithering' across the surface of the star. Of course, this is not a snake, but a phenomenon that scientists have not observed before. Perhaps it is related to solar flares.

Solar Orbiter shot this video on September 5, when it flew to perihelion, the closest point to the luminary at a distance of only 1/3 of a.u., where it came out on October 12.

The huge "snake" that creeps across the surface of the Sun is most likely a colder plasma tube that moves across the Sun's surface, held in place by its magnetic field.

The solar atmosphere is composed of plasma, an ionized gas made up of charged particles influenced by the magnetic field. According to astronomer David Long, the plasma "flows" from one side of the Sun to the other. But because the Sun's magnetic field has a rather complex configuration, the plasma travels along curved, twisted paths. And from the "behavior" of the plasma, you can get a lot of information about the configuration of the star's magnetic field.

In the video, you can see that the point from which the plasma "snake" "slithered" to another part soon exploded with a coronal mass ejection, which are bursts of plasma flying away from the Sun at enormous speeds.

The next time Solar Orbiter will be at perihelion is next April. Then it will be able to capture new and interesting videos that will help to better understand what is happening on the Sun.

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