Solar Flares Explained

Solar flares explained – Power of the Sun!

Occasionally, you may hear on the morning news that solar flares are expected to disrupt communications throughout the day. Which could have both you and many others thinking: what the heck is a solar flare? Here’s how we have solar flares explained…

Solar flares are powerful explosions from the surface of the sun. They occur when magnetic energy builds up and then explodes, sending matter, plasma, and gases out into the solar system. This energy that is released is equal to energy released from millions of megaton hydrogen bombs all exploding at the same time, or 10 million times greater than the energy released from a volcanic explosion. However, the energy in a solar flare is less than one-tenth of the total energy that the sun emits every second – it’s just that with solar flares, the energy is concentrated into a dramatic burst of bright light. Solar flares emit radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from the long wavelength end (radio waves) to the short wavelength end (x-rays and gamma rays). It is this radiation that affects the earths’ ionosphere (part of the upper atmosphere) and disrupts communications, such as radars.

Scientists have found that there are usually three stages to a solar flare. Firstly, the release of magnetic energy is triggered, then, protons and electrons begin accelerating at an astounding rate (this is the stage where gamma rays and radio waves are emitted). The third stage is the decay stage, which is when soft x-rays (x-rays with lower energy) are gradually built up and then fall away. Soft x-rays increase the ionization of Earth’s atmosphere, interfering with short-wave radio communication and even interfering with the orbits of some satellites. Although researchers have identified and studied these three stages, there is no way to predict how long each stage may last; it may be anywhere from a few seconds to an hour.

As solar flares gather energy, they affect each layer of the solar atmosphere – the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona (the outer layers of the sun). Although the gas in the corona has a temperature of a few million degrees, the gas inside a solar flare gets as hot as 10 – 20 million degrees, and can even get as hot as 100 million degrees. Crazy isn’t it!

Solar flares occur in “active regions” on the corona. There appears to be an 11-year cycle to the Sun. When the cycle is at a minimum, these active regions are small and there are fewer flares. As the Sun proceeds through its cycle, the number of flares increase.

Nevertheless, although we seem to know a bit about solar flares, there is still a lot unknown, and still much more to learn.

Now you know the amazing power of the Sun, why not make the most of its abundant energy, after all, it is there for the taking. Let our professional Gold Coast plumbers provide you with a free on-site quote today for a new solar hot water system. With an average 300 sunny days each year, the Gold Coast is the perfect place to install a solar hot water system. Phone: 07 5520 7100