Category Archives: What is a solar flare?

Scale of the Universe…

I found this out there in the world wide web….it is truly amazing. I would recommend starting at the small circle first. You will see what I mean when you click on it.

Scale of the Universe

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Posted by on June 3, 2011 in Solar Effects


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When was this first discovered?

The entire question which was asked on NASA Solar Week, ” When was this first discovered,that the sun’s magnetic effects had a direct effect on earth, and how does it on other planets?”

Answer provided by Dr. Kris Sigsbee

“That is a great question!  It took many different scientists centuries to work out that the Sun’s magnetic field and solar activity affected the Earth’s magnetosphere.  One of the first people to study the Earth’s magnetic field was an English scientist named William Gilbert who lived from 1544 to 1603.  When William Gilbert was alive, people already knew about the magnetic properties of iron ore (lodestone) and used compasses in navigation.  However, they did not really understand the Earth’s global magnetic field.  William Gilbert was one of the first to study the Earth’s magnetic field using a round lodestone he called a terella to simulate the Earth.  He also established a lot of the magnetic terminology we use today.  Years later, around 1612-13, Galileo made observations of sunspots.  However it would still be years before people understood the connection between the Earth’s magnetic field and solar activity.  A Norwegian scientist named Kristian Birkeland was the first to discover that the aurora borealis or northern lights were related to the Earth’s magnetic field in the early 1900s.  Birkeland was an adventurer who made this discovery through his polar expeditions in 1902-03 and laboratory experiments using terellas similar to the ones that Gilbert used.  In 1908, an American astronomer named George Ellery Hale realized that sunspots had magnetic structure.  A few years later, Birkeland proposed the existence of a solar wind as well as field-aligned currents in the Earth’s magnetosphere, but his ideas were controversial for a long time because they could not be verified using ground-based measurements.  It was not until the first satellites were launched in the late 1950s that scientists were able to confirm Birkeland’s theories about the connection between the Sun and the aurora.

You can read more about Galileo and William Gilbert here-“

And about George Hale and Kristian Birkeland here -


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Do other planets have magnetic fields to protect them from solar flares?

Answer provided by Dr. Kris Sigsbee

“Some of the other planets have strong magnetic fields, just like the Earth does.  Venus and Mars do not have strong, global magnetic fields.  Mars only has weak remnants of a magnetic field in rocks that were formed long ago when Mars may have had a much stronger, global magnetic field.  It is kind of interesting to note that while Mercury does not have an atmosphere like the other Terrestrial planets, it does have a strong magnetic field.  The lack of an atmosphere and the proximity of Mercury to the Sun means that the interaction of its magnetosphere with the solar wind may be very different from the interaction between Earth’s magnetosphere and the solar wind.  This is one of the things being investigated by MESSENGER, which is the spacecraft first to orbit Mercury.   Jupiter has a very strong magnetic field and very intense radiation belts.  One of Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede, also has a strong magnetic field and its own magnetosphere.  If I remember correctly, Ganymede is the only moon in the Solar System to have its own magnetosphere.  Although the solar wind does affect Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the dynamics of Jupiter’s magnetosphere are affected more strongly by the volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, which create a feature called the Io plasma torus inside Jupiter’s magnetosphere.   Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune also have magnetic fields.  Aurora have been observed on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. “


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How long was the longest solar flare measured?

Answer provided by Mitzi Adams:

”I’m not really sure how long the longest flare might have been.  That is a difficult question to answer, since it depends on how you are measuring the flare.  I can tell you that a flare that happened 21 Mar, 2011  (a C-class flare) lasted about fifteen hours.  That is, the X-ray flux from the flare in one energy band took that long to return to its pre-flare level, as measured by an instrument in orbit around Earth on the GOES satellite.  The first X-class flare of solar cycle 24 lasted only about an hour, however.  If you would like to see the graphs yourself, go here:

For information about flare classes, visit this website:’


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Sounds like the Earth is settling

The planet has been full of activity lately…

March 28, 2011 C class solar x ray flare erupted

March 29 low level C class solar x ray flare erupted

March 30  C and B class solar x ray flares continue to erupt

March 31 low level C class solar x ray flares still erupting

April 1 Mid level C class solar x ray flares erupting with a partial halo CME

April 4 Multiple CME eruptions with B class solar x ray flares

April 5  B class solar x ray flares were observed

April 6 C class solar x ray flare was observed

  • Rumblings at Ruapehu (New Zealand) causes concern

April 7 Four (4) C Class solar x ray flares erupted with as well as a CME

  • Crude oil reaches a $112 USD (link is live market)

April 8 Multiple sunspots with high activity were reported

April 9 C class solar x ray flare erupts as well as another partial halo CME


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How Do Solar Storms Happen?

Answer provided by Ms. Dawn Myers:

A solar storm happens when a coronal mass ejection leaves the Sun headed towards Earth. The CME will slam into the Earth’s magnetosphere and interact with it causing what we call space weather. Depending on how large a storm is it could cause satellite interruptions, power black outs and auroras.

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in CME, Solar Storm


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How Big Are The Spots On The Sun?

Another great question, answered by Ms. Irina Marinova from University of Texas, Astronomy PhD program:

Sunspots are regions on the surface of the sun that are cooler and darker than the surrounding area (the photosphere). Sunspots change in size as they move across the surface of the sun, however some sun spots have been observed to be as large as 80,000km. This is about six times the size of the Earth! NASA and the European Space Agency have a satellite in orbit around the sun (called SOHO) that takes pictures of the sun every day. You can see what the sun looks like right now (including sun spots) at this website:


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What is the difference between a CME and a large Solar Flare?

Another question answered by Dr. Yan Li:

A flare refers to a sudden brightening of a local region at low corona close to the solar surface. A CME refers to a blob of material and/or magnetic structure that erupts and leaves the Sun. Almost all large flares have their own companion CMEs from the same region. Many small flares do not have observable CMEs, which could mean no CME or too small to be seen. The relationship between flares and CMEs is an outstanding question still. Perhaps they are just two different appearances of a same solar activity.


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What is the difference between a sunspot and solar flare?

What is the difference between a sunspot and a solar flare?

I had trouble putting this into words, so Dr. Yan Li answered this for me:

“Sunspots are small areas that appear darker than their surrounding solar surface. Sunspot areas have strong magnetic field. Occasionally the strong magnetic field in a sunspot is overly twisted and decides to fire up like ‘fire works’. Those ‘fire works’ are solar flares and they are above sunspots. Sunspots last for a bit shorter than a day to several days. Flares are much shorter and last for a few seconds to a few hours.”


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Here we go again…

Good Evening All!!! I apologize for not posting for a couple of days, but lets get caught up. So…my last posting regarding activity in the world was on March 21st with M-Class solar x-ray flares reported.
Since then here is what has happened:

3/28 *take this for what you want, this struck me as very interesting due to not much press covering this*

3/27 A lot of sunspot activity

  • An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.0 was reported in Baja, Mexico

3/26 M1 X-ray event was captured and a possibility of more lower level X-ray flares erupting

3/25 moderately low B-class and C-Class solar x-ray flares reported

3/24 B-class and C-class solar x-ray flares continue to erupt

3/23 B-class solar x-ray flares and C-class solar x ray flares erupted

3/22 C-class solar x-ray flares erupted

3/21 5.5 earthquake reported in the Philippines

I must say all of the activity in Arkansas is very interesting. Here is another interesting report regarding all of the earthquakes


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