A powerful explosion in the sun briefly formed a huge valley or canyon of fire on the sun’s surface 60,000 miles or 96,560 km long. Photo/Live Science/NASA
FLORIDA – A powerful explosion in the sun briefly formed a large valley or canyon of fire on the sun’s surface 60,000 miles or 96,560 km long. This fire canyon is twice as wide as the United States (US) and seven times as long as Earth.
This enormous and fiery valley is a reminder that the sun is approaching the peak of its explosion or solar maximum point. Plumes of plasma that are thrown from the sun to give birth to canyons can slide towards the earth and trigger geomagnetic storms and auroras.
Spaceweather.com on October 31, 2023 reported a circle of magnetic plasma, known as a solar bulge, was growing in the sun’s southern hemisphere and becoming unstable. Then the lump of plasma broke off and shot off into space like a broken elastic band.
As it moves away, it leaves a giant, canyon-like hole in the superheated plasma that makes up the sun’s surface. According to the Space.com website, this fire canyon is about 6,200 miles or 10,000 kilometers wide and stretches 10 times as long.
The plasma chasm is about 620 times wider and 224 times longer than the Grand Canyon and about 50 times wider and 25 times longer than the Valles Marineris on Mars. Valles Marineris is the largest known canyon in the solar system.
This isn’t the first fire canyon seen on the sun in recent years. In April 2022, a 124,000 mile or 200,000 km long fiery canyon opened up in the sun.
Then in September 2022, a larger fiery canyon stretching 239,000 miles or 385,000 km long, appeared after a powerful solar eruption. These two canyons are about 12,400 miles or 20,000 km deep, which is about 1,800 times deeper than the Mariana Trench.
The enormous solar canyon is the latest sign that the sun is rapidly approaching maximum. This is the peak explosion in the solar cycle of about 11 years, which is likely to occur in 2024.
Near solar maximum, the sun’s magnetic field lines begin to tangle. These invisible lines usually confine the plasma to the sun’s surface. But when the two are intertwined, they become less effective at holding the plasma in place, allowing large bulges and deep valleys to form on the surface.
Weaker surface magnetism also led to a series of other interesting plasma structures this year including a giant polar vortex swirling around the sun’s north pole. There is also the phenomenon of a solar tornado whose height exceeds 14 times that of Earth, and a plasma waterfall which rains fiery fire on the sun.