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- Mar 8, 2012
- impressiveMar 8, 2012
- i bet the solar storm well knock out our stalightsMar 8, 2012
- What is a solar flare? How does it affect us? AND How long does it take to reach Earth?Mar 8, 2012
- A solar flare is basically a tangle in the local magnetic field of the sun. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but remember, the sun is a huge ball of plasma, so electrons, protons and assorted ions can travel along those magnetic field lines.
At some point, the tangled field line can basically cross itself and "short out", for a lack of a better simple term, in the fancy terminology, it reconnects, leaving that trailing area, with its charged particles to fly loose. In that case, it could become a coronal mass ejection.
In a flare, it's a super bright spot, loaded with x-ray energy along with the visible light, where the energy is flowing along those tangled magnetic field lines. The interaction of charged particles with the plasma of the sun and their literal twirling around the magnetic field lines generates rather strong x-rays.
If I haven't confused you enough, Wikipedia has an excellent and accurate article on solar flares.
As for time to Earth for a flare's radiation, a bit over 8 minutes, as it's electromagnetic energy, for the largest part. X-rays mostly.
A CME (coronal mass ejection) takes longer, typically around three days, though some highly energetic ones can arrive in a day. Those can give us some geomagnetic storms and really cool auroral displays.
For solar flares, the only ones who are threatened are people in high flying aircraft (receiving a mild dose of ionizing radiation) and astronauts (and of course, satellites receiving radiation damage).
Flares happen pretty often, large ones, less often. CME's far less often, but during the solar cycle (when the sunspots are frequent), they become more frequent. Expect a LOT more in the next year and change, as the solar maximum peaks next year.
Sunspots actually INCREASE the temperature of the Earth, as their edges are REALLY hot, compared to the rest of the sun. But, don't go looking at your thermometer for that difference, it's really small and only of note for researchers.Mar 8, 2012
- wanderfullMar 11, 2012