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Image of a snake slithering across the Sun is captured by the European Space Agency

Por: Ecoo sfera15 de noviembre de 2022

Solar Orbiter astonishes us with an incredible new observation of the Sun

The Solar Orbiter has shown us incredible images that it has been photographing during its journeys, such as the bonfires, the fire cannon, a smiling face, or a hedgehog on the surface of our Sun. Now, it has captured what looks like a snake crawling across the Sun when an active solar region erupted. This observation is a new addition to the features revealed by the ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission, leaving scientists with new questions to answer.

[Photo: ESA]

Plasma, the state of matter on the Sun

The snake plasma follows a particularly long filament of the Sun’s magnetic field that runs from one side of the Sun to the other. This plasma is a state of matter in which the gas is so hot that its atoms begin to lose some of their outer particles, which we know as electrons.

Thanks to this loss, the gas becomes electrically charged and susceptible to magnetic fields. All the gas in the Sun’s atmosphere is plasma because the temperature there is more than a million degrees Celsius but surprisingly, on its surface only 6,000 C°, one of the Sun’s biggest mysteries.

As there is no uniform temperature and there are areas such as sunspots where the temperature drops, the plasma flows from one side to the other but as the magnetic field is very twisted, a change of direction is obtained and we will see a twisted structure in turn, according to the explanation given by David Long, from the Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory (UCL), who is leading the research.

[Photo: ESA]

Snake crawls across the Sun

This video was constructed as a time-lapse using images from the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager aboard the Solar Orbiter. The truth is that although the video lasts a few seconds, the snake took 3 hours to complete its lap around the Sun, if we think about the distance involved in crossing the solar surface, we would be talking that the plasma could have traveled at approximately 170 kilometers per second.

This snake started from an active solar region that later erupted, ejecting millions of tons of plasma into space. This leads scientists to believe that the snake was a kind of precursor to this event, which Solar Orbiter captured on several instruments.

For the spacecraft’s Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), the flare was one of the most intense solar energetic particle events currently detected by the instrument. “It’s a nice combination of data that we can only get with Solar Orbiter,” Long said.

The main objective is to see how such eruptions are produced and to take samples of the ejected gases, to better understand solar activity and how it creates space weather that can disrupt satellites or other technologies on Earth.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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