Solar Flares : Details you should know!

Solar Flares are something that happens inside the Sun, but they do affect Earth in some way. Solar flares could be best described as a sudden burst in the intensity of the brightness of the Sun. It happens when magnetic energy that has been developed in the Sun is released. If the flares are too intense, one can expect a coronal mass ejection soon after the flare. What are coronal mass ejections you ask? It is the release of magnetic field and plasma from the Corona layer of the Sun’s atmosphere. Electrons, ions, electromagnetic waves, and atoms are ejected into the outer space when these flares happen.

So what causes these solar flares? The accepted idea as of yet, as mentioned above is that the Sun releases a strong build-up of magnetic energy. Sunspots are the places where one should look ( not literally! You must never ever look directly at the Sun) if they want to know where the eruptions take place. Sunspots are darker, and relatively less hot patches on the Sun’s surface. The amount of energy released during a solar flare could be the equivalent of millions of hydrogen bomb explosions! Surely this must have some effect on Earth. It does.

Aurora Borealis, popularly known as the Northern lights are a consequence of the solar storms. The particles that are ejected into outer space because of the flare reach Earth and are attracted to North and South magnetic poles. Earth’s magnetic shield- made up of atoms and molecules of Oxygen, Nitrogen and a lot of other elements interacts with the ejected particles and cause the Aurora Borealis to happen. But not everything’s good and wonderful about the flares. The ejections are usually radioactive in nature and can damage important spacecraft and astronauts that might be inside them. It can also damage expensive equipment because of corrosion. Only very strong solar flares can have a significant effect on us here on the Earth. The real culprits seem to be the coronal mass ejections (CMEs). When the particles ejected because of the CMEs interact with Earth’s magnetic field, they are very likely to cause disruptions in  GPS signals and radio communications.

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