The European Space Agency (ESA) observed a “solar snake” moving along the surface of the Sun. The shocking video shows the massive snake wriggling like a dragon and disappearing. It’s as if a sandworm from Dune or Aztec Quetzalcoatl has taken up residence. But what is it?
According to the ESA, the wriggling solar snake is a “tube of cool plasma suspended by magnetic fields in the hotter surrounding plasma of the Sun’s atmosphere.”
The Sun’s atmosphere contains plasma gas, and temperatures of over a million degrees centigrade cause atoms in the plasma to lose electrons, making it electrically charged.
“The plasma in the snake is following a particularly long filament of the Sun’s magnetic field that is reaching from one side of the Sun to another,” the ESA states.
They estimate the snake seen on September 5 moved 170km per second (378,000 mph (608,000 km/h). Even so, it took three hours to cover the distance seen in the video (see below).
The ESA Solar Orbiter is a mission shared with NASA and had a close pass with the Sun on October 12. That’s when the onboard Extreme Ultraviolet Imager took the images compiled into a time-lapse video.
The orbiter has been in space for over 1000 days after its launch in February 2020.
Video by VideoFromSpace:
What Made This Solar Snake Wriggle?
According to researchers, the Sun’s magnetic field covers one end of the Sun to the other but is convoluted and twisted, and that’s why the solar snake seems to wriggle along.
“You’re getting this change in direction because we’re looking down on a twisted structure,” said Dr. David Long from the UK’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory. Long is heading an investigation into the solar snake phenomenon.
According to Space.com, the snake emerged from a sunspot.
“The filament originated in a sunspot, a cooler region on the sun’s surface where the star’s magnetic field is twisted,” they reported.
After the solar snake appeared, there was a “much larger eruption,” per the ESA website. Possibly, the solar snake’s appearance was a precursor to a coronal mass ejection that ejected “billions of tons” of plasma into space. That eruption took place later the same day, September 5.
Faces on the Sun
Recently, NASA shared a “goofy sun smile” in October. The Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped the portrait that appears like a glowing emoticon.
“Seen in ultraviolet light, these dark patches on the sun are known as coronal holes and are regions where fast solar wind gushes out into space,” NASA said.
In 2019, NASA shared a portrait of the Sun looking like a jack-o’-lantern face, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in 2014.
Later in October, news resurfaced about a skull-shaped asteroid that flew by Earth just in time for Halloween. However, the asteroid dubbed the “Death Comet,” “Great Pumpkin,” and the “Halloween Asteroid” went by years ago in 2015 and then again in 2018. By that time, it has lost its skull appearance.
Video about the Death Comet from CBC News: