‘Solar Snake’ Spotted On The Sun: Here’s What It Means

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‘Solar Snake’ Spotted On The Sun: Here’s What It Means
Photo Credit: ESA

Sun, our solar system’s raging star, is no stranger to occasional flare-ups. But the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter has managed to spot something very unique -- a giant 'solar snake’ slithering across the star’s surface that might be a glimpse of an upcoming event.

 

The Solar Orbiter snapped the 'snake’ while it was approaching the Sun to capture some close-up images. The ESA also released a timelapse video that was recorded over three hours. It means the 'snake’ was traveling at a staggering speed of 106 miles per second, as per astronomers.

What Caused This Phenomenon?

The Sun’s surface is wrapped around by a tube of cooler atmospheric gasses that shoot through its magnetic field. While they are relatively cooler, these gasses are present in the form of plasma, which is basically superheated matter.

The Sun’s atmosphere can get very hot, reaching over a whopping one million degrees Fahrenheit. At such temperatures, the gasses tend to lose their outer electrons and turn into electrically charged plasma. This makes these gases vulnerable to magnetic fields.

"You're getting plasma flowing from one side to the other but the magnetic field is really twisted," said David Long, an astrophysicist who is studying the snake, in a statement. "So you're getting this change in direction because we're looking down on a twisted structure."

The 'snake’ showed up on an active region of the Sun that is expected to erupt in a coronal mass ejection soon. This event will spew out billions of tons of plasma. It means the snake was just a glimpse of an enormous eruption, which makes it even more important for astronomers to study. David Long and his team are investigating the phenomenon and finding out what effects it could have in the coming days.

Sun’s Wicked Smile

Previously, NASA captured the Sun’s wicked “smile.” The space agency explained that the phenomenon is an example of “coronal holes.” These holes appear on the Sun when "fast solar wind gushes out into space."

NASA leveraged its Solar Dynamics Observatory to capture the image. The image suggests that real-life solar events on Earth could be devastating. Scientists suggest that such coronal holes appear only when the Sun is readying itself to spew out solar winds at extremely high velocities.

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