- Solar flare
A solar flare is a violent explosion in a star's (like the
Sun's) atmosphere releasing as much energyas 6 × 1025 Joules.cite journal
coauthors=Lawrence, G and Rottman, G.
title=The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM): Science Results
doi=10.1007/s11207-005-7433-9] Solar flares take place in the solar
coronaand chromosphere, heating plasma to tens of millions of kelvins and accelerating electrons, protons and heavier ions to near the speed of light. They produce electromagnetic radiationacross the electromagnetic spectrumat all wavelengths from long-wave radio to the shortest wavelength gamma rays.cite journal
coauthors=Mann, G and Sedlmayr, E.
title=Propagation of energetic electrons through the solar corona and the interplanetary medium
journal=Astronomy & Astrophysics
doi=10.1051/0004-6361:20065237] Most flares occur in active regions around
sunspots, where intense magnetic fields emerge from the Sun's surface into the corona.Flares are powered by the sudden (timescales of minutes to tens of minutes) release of magnetic energy stored in the corona.
X-rays and UV radiation emitted by solar flares can affect Earth's
ionosphereand disrupt long-range radio communications. Direct radio emission at decimetric wavelengths may disturb operation of radars and other devices operating at these frequencies.
Solar flares were first observed on the Sun by
Richard Christopher Carringtonand independently by Richard Hodgson in 1859as localized brightenings in a sunspot group. Stellar flares have also been observed on a variety of other stars.
The frequency of occurrence of solar flares varies, from several per day when the Sun is particularly "active" to less than one each week when the Sun is "quiet". Large flares are less frequent than smaller ones. Solar activity varies with an 11-year cycle (the
solar cycle). At the peak of the cycle there are typically more sunspots on the Sun, and hence more solar flares.
Classification of flares
Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X according to the peak flux (in watts per square meter, W/m²) of 100 to 800
picometer X-rays near Earth, as measured on the GOESspacecraft. Each class has a peak flux ten times greater than the preceding one, with X class flares having a peak flux of order 10-4 W/m². Within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9, so an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare, and is four times more powerful than an M5 flare. The more powerful M and X class flares are often associated with a variety of effects on the near-Earth space environment.Although the GOES classification is commonly used to indicate the size of a flare, it is only one measure.
Two of the largest GOES flares were the X20 events (2 mW/m²) recorded on
August 16, 1990and April 2, 2001. However, these events were outshone by a flare on November 4, 2003that was the most powerful X-ray flare ever recorded. This flare was originally classified as X28 (2.8 mW/m²). However, the GOES detectors were saturated at the peak of the flare, and it is now thought that the flare was between X40 (4.0 mW/m²) and X45 (4.5 mW/m²), based on the influence of the event on the earth's atmosphere [ [http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2004/2003GL019345.shtml] ] [ [http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2004JA010960.shtml] ] . The flare originated in sunspot region 10486, which is shown in the illustration above several days before the flare.
Solar flares and associated
Filament erupting during a solar flare, seen at EUV wavelengths that show both emission and absorption (the filament has both). The plasma physics involved in this process remains poorly understood, but it certainly involves the Sun's magnetic field. [cite web | url=http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap040725.html | title=A Solar Filament Lifts Off | accessdate=2006-06-12]
Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) strongly influence our local space weather. They produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar windand the Earth's magnetospherethat can present radiationhazards to spacecraft and astronauts. The soft X-ray flux of X class flares increases the ionisation of the upper atmosphere, which can interfere with short-wave radio communication, and can increase the drag on low orbiting satellites, leading to orbital decay. Energetic particles in the magnetosphere contribute to the aurora borealisand aurora australis.
Solar flares release a cascade of high energy particles known as a proton storm. Protons can pass through the human body, doing biochemical damageFact|date=July 2007. Most proton storms take two or more hours from the time of visual detection to reach Earth. A solar flare on January 20, 2005 released the highest concentration of protons ever directly measured [ [http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2005/10jun_newstorm.htm A New Kind of Solar Storm ] ] , taking only 15 minutes after observation to reach Earth, indicating a velocity of approximately one-third light speed.
The radiation risk posed by solar flares and CMEs is one of the major concerns in discussions of manned missions to Mars or to the moon. Some kind of physical or magnetic shielding would be required to protect the astronauts. Originally it was thought that astronauts would have two hours time to get into shelter, but based on the
January 20, 2005event, they may have as little as 15 minutes to do so.
The following missions have flares as their main observation target.
Yohkoh- The Yohkoh (originally Solar A) spacecraft observed the Sun with a variety of instruments from its launch in 1991 until its failure in 2001. The observations spanned a period from one solar maximum to the next. Two instruments of particular use for flare observations were the Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT), a glancing incidence low energy X-ray telescope, and the Hard X-ray Telescope (HXT), a collimation counting instrument which produced images in higher energy X-ray by image synthesis.
GOES- The GOES spacecraft have measured the soft X-ray flux from the Sun since the mid 1970s. GOES observations are used to classify the size of solar flares.
RHESSI- RHESSI is designed to image solar flares in energetic photons from soft X rays (~3 keV) to gamma rays (up to ~20 MeV) and to provide high resolution spectroscopy up to gamma-ray energies of ~20 MeV. Furthermore, it has the capability to perform spatially resolved spectroscopy with high spectral resolution.
Hinode- A new spacecraft, originally called Solar B, was launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agencyin September 2006 to observe solar flares in more precise detail. Its instrumentation, supplied by an international collaboration including Norway, the U.K., and the U.S., focuses on the powerful magnetic fields thought to be the source of solar flares. Such studies shed light on the causes of this activity, possibly helping to forecast future flares and thus minimize their dangerous effects on to satellites and astronauts. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5371162.stm] ] .
The most powerful flare of the last 500 years is believed to have occurred in September 1859: it was seen by British astronomer Richard Carrington and left a trace in
Greenlandice in the form of nitrates and beryllium-10, which allow its strength to be measured today (New Scientist, 2005).
Current methods of flare prediction are probabilistic, and there is no certain indication that an active region on the Sun will produce a flare. However, many properties of sunspots and active regions correlate with flaring. For example, magnetically complex regions (based on line of sight magnetic field) called delta spots produce most large flares. A simple scheme of sunspot classification due to McIntosh is commonly used as a starting point for flare prediction. Predictions are usually stated in terms of probabilities for occurrenceof flares above M or X GOES class with 24 or 48 hours. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues forecasts of this kind.
Coronal mass ejection
* [http://www.solarcycle24.com/ Solar Cycle 24 and VHF Aurora Website (www.solarcycle24.com)]
* [http://www.spaceweather.com Solar Weather Site]
* [http://stereo.jhuapl.edu STEREO Spacecraft Site]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3251481.stm Early BBC report on the
November 4, 2003flare]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3515788.stm Later BBC report on the
November 4, 2003flare]
* [http://soho.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/ NASA SOHO observations of flares]
* [http://www.ucm.es/info/Astrof/invest/actividad/flares.html Stellar Flares] - D. Montes, UCM.
* [http://www.ucm.es/info/Astrof/obs_ucm/sol/sol.html The Sun] - D. Montes, UCM.
* [http://flash.uchicago.edu/website/home/ ASC / Alliances Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes]
* [http://www.gresham.ac.uk/event.asp?PageId=45&EventId=695 'The Sun Kings'] , lecture by Dr Stuart Clark on the discovery of solar flares given at
Gresham College, 12 September 2007(available as a video or audio download as well as a text file).
* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap071106.html An X Class Flare Region on the Sun] - NASA
Astronomy Picture of the Day
* [http://www.suntrek.org Sun|trek website] An educational resource for teachers and students about the Sun and its effect on the Earth
* [http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/06may_carringtonflare.htm? NASA - Carrington Super Flare]
NASA May 6 2008
* Mewaldt, R.A., "et al." 2005. Space weather implications of the
20 January 2005solar energetic particle event. Joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. May 23-27. New Orleans. [http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/SFgate/SFgate?language=English&verbose=0&listenv=table&application=sm05&convert=&converthl=&refinequery=&formintern=&formextern=&transquery=an%3d%22SH32A-05%22&_lines=&multiple=0&descriptor=%2fdata%2fepubs%2fwais%2findexes%2fsm05%2fsm05%7c999%7c4995%7cSpace%20Weather%20Implications%20of%20the%2020%20January%202005%20Solar%20Energetic%20Particle%20Event%7cHTML%7clocalhost:0%7c%2fdata%2fepubs%2fwais%2findexes%2fsm05%2fsm05%7c7840533%207845528%20%2fdata2%2fepubs%2fwais%2fdata%2fsm05%2fsm05.txt Abstract] .
* [http://www.maniacworld.com/Solar-Flares-1.htm Solar Flares] NASA Video from 2003
* [http://www.maniacworld.com/Solar-Flares-2.htm Solar Flares] Solar & Heliospheric Observatory Video from 2002
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Look at other dictionaries:
solar flare — n. a sudden, short lived increase of intensity in the light of the sun, usually near sunspots, often accompanied by a large increase in cosmic rays, X rays, etc. and by resultant magnetic storms … English World dictionary
solar flare — noun a sudden eruption of intense high energy radiation from the sun s surface; associated with sunspots and radio interference • Syn: ↑flare • Hypernyms: ↑solar radiation * * * ˌsolar ˈflare 7 [solar flare] … Useful english dictionary
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solar flare — noun Date: 1938 a sudden temporary outburst of energy from a small area of the sun s surface called also flare … New Collegiate Dictionary
solar flare — so′lar flare′ n. astron. a brief, sudden brightening of the sun s atmosphere that accompanies a burst of radiation from a sunspot • Etymology: 1935–40 … From formal English to slang
Solar Flare — A huge eruption of the Sun s matter from its surface. These columns and loops of matter may be hundreds of kilometers high and affect radio signals on Earth. See Solar Cycle … The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology
solar flare — noun A violent explosion in the Suns atmosphere … Wiktionary
solar flare — volcanic eruption of the surface of the sun … English contemporary dictionary
solar flare — noun Astronomy a brief eruption of intense high energy radiation from the sun s surface … English new terms dictionary
solar flare — /soʊlə ˈflɛə/ (say sohluh flair) noun a short lived, high temperature outburst, seen as a bright area in the sun s atmosphere … Australian English dictionary