A plasma waterfall on the sun was captured by an astrophotographer. The height of the structure is appropriately 60,000 miles. As the sun nears its peak of activity, this is the latest in a series of stunning solar events. The picture was taken on March 9, 2023, by Eduardo Schaberger. The rise of the plasma wall is some 100,000 km, or about 62,000 miles, above the solar surface. Then the plasma cascades back down, giving it its “waterfall” nickname. The name of the structure is polar crown prominence (PCP).
The occurrence of PCPs takes place near the sun’s magnetic poles at latitudes between 60 & 70 degrees North & South. The falling back of plasma occurs at tremendous speeds, up to 22,370 mph. PCPs are loops of plasma ejected from the solar surface by magnetic fields. They are similar to normal solar prominences. The cause of the plasma to collapse back towards the Sun is the magnetic fields near the poles. The plasma travels downward at high speeds, though the plasma within PCPS is not in freefall. The enigma of this contradiction is being studied by the researchers. There are two phases of PCPs during their eruptions: a slow phase & a fast phase.
Solar prominences are studied by solar physicists because they can be accompanied by coronal mass ejections. As PCPs could provide insights to improve experimental nuclear fusion reactors, they are also of interest to nuclear physicists. Images of the phenomenon like this one are rare, though PCPs are common & could happen every day. As the sun ramps up to a peak in its activity, PCPS could become more frequent & intense.