Solar snake spotted slithering across Sun’s surface

Solar Orbiter has spotted a ‘tube’ of cooler atmospheric gases snaking its way through the Sun’s magnetic field. The observation provides an intriguing new addition to the zoo of features revealed by the ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission, especially since the snake was a precursor to a much larger eruption.

The snake was seen on 5 September 2022, as Solar Orbiter was approaching the Sun for a close pass that took place on 12 October. It is a tube of cool plasma suspended by magnetic fields in the hotter surrounding plasma of the Sun’s atmosphere.

Plasma is a state of matter in which a gas is so hot that its atoms begin to lose some of their outer particles, called electrons. This loss makes the gas electrically charged and therefore susceptible to magnetic fields. All gas in the Sun’s atmosphere is a plasma because the temperature here is more than a million degrees centigrade.