The moment a ‘snake’ slithers across the surface of the sun at 380,000 MPH is captured by ESA’s Solar Orbiter: a tube of cold atmospheric gases emerged from a spot that later erupted
- The Solar Orbiter studies the sun and captures a snake moving on it
- The serpent is a “tube” of cold atmospheric gases that formed in the hot plasma
- This is also intriguing as the feature comes from a place that broke later
The moment a ‘snake’ appears to be gliding across the surface of the sun at a speed of 380,000 miles per hour has been captured by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter.
The feature is a ‘tube’ of cool atmospheric gases passing through the sun’s magnetic field and although the video shows it passing through, it actually took three hours to travel from side to side.
What makes the “snake” so intriguing is that it started from an active solar region which then erupted, ejecting billions of tons of plasma into space.
The event suggests the feature could be used as a warning signal for future outbursts on the sun as the Solar Orbiter identified it with multiple instruments.
The “snake” was seen moving from the bottom right of the sun to the top left. It is in fact a “tube” of cold atmospheric gases passing through the magnetic field of the sun.
The tube was spotted on September 5, as the craft approached the sun – the feature can be seen moving from the bottom right of the sun, to the top left.
Plasma is one of the four fundamental states of matter in which a gas is so hot that its atoms begin to shed some of their outer particles, called electrons.
This loss makes the gas electrically charged and therefore sensitive to magnetic fields. All the gas in the Sun’s atmosphere is plasma because the temperature there is over a million degrees centigrade.
David Long, Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UCL), UK, who is leading the investigation into the phenomenon, said in a statement: “You get plasma flowing from side to side, but the magnetic field is really twisted. So you get this change in direction because we’re looking down on a twisted structure.
Because it started from an active solar region that later erupted, the ESA suggests this type of feature could be used as a warning sign for future outbursts on the sun because the Solar Orbiter identified him with several instruments
With the video shared by ESA, experts determined that the plasma must be traveling at around 106 miles per second, or 380,000 miles per hour.
For the spacecraft’s Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), the flare was one of the most intense solar-energetic particle events detected by the instrument so far.
“It’s a really nice combination of datasets that we only get from Solar Orbiter,” says David.
The Solar Orbiter shared new images of the sun in May during its closest approach, known as perihelion, which took place on March 26, taking it inside Mercury’s orbit, at about a third of the distance from the Sun to the Earth.
It captured a series of “breathtaking” images, including views across the solar poles and of several solar flares, offering a taste of real-time space weather forecasting.
This is becoming increasingly important due to the threat space weather poses to technology and astronauts.
Another eye-catching feature Solar Orbiter captured has been dubbed “the hedgehog” due to its multitude of hot and cold gas peaks extending in all directions.
The Solar Orbiter shared new images of the sun in May during its closest approach. Solar activity such as flares and giant flares known as coronal mass ejections are driven by the magnetic activity of the Sun (pictured)
The Solar Orbiter carries 10 science instruments – nine led by ESA Member States and one by NASA – all working together to provide unprecedented insight into how the Sun works.
The orbiter’s main scientific goal is to explore the connection between the Sun and the heliosphere – the great bubble of space that extends beyond the planets of our solar system.
It is filled with electrically charged particles, most of which have been expelled by the Sun to form the solar wind.
It is the movement of these particles and the associated solar magnetic fields that create space weather.