How Solar Flares are Classified

15 Mar

M class, X flare, what in the hell are you talking about?!?!

Solar flares are an amazing event that takes place on our Sun almost every day. While the general public only hears about solar flares when there is a big burst many people are constantly watching these “bursts”.  My personal analogy on how to describe a solar flare is: imagine your stomach being upset, and at one point you feel as though you are going to explode…and you do by farting. You fart is the solar flare. Your stomach could not hold the gas that was building up inside so it had to release it.That is kind of what a solar flare is, however instead of it smelling really bad it releases tons of energy. Like the H-Bomb…stop laughing! <giggles herself>

Now take your fart, and you bragging to your friends how awesome it is. Then you get this great idea you are going to try to fart the exact same way but you want to time it, so you go get your stopwatch…this my friends is where I will stray away from my analogy and start to explain how solar flares are classified thus being no more similarities.

Simply put…

X-class flares are the biggest ( my analogy: if you hear this in the news you need to pay close attention to this, this may mean you are listening to this on a radio or reading it in the newspaper…no I’m not kidding)

M-class flares are in the middle (my analogy: you’re cell phones, mp3 players, and internet connection could potential go out completely, do you have a back up in case we go dark from the digital age? X class flares are what could potentially cause a total blackout)

C-class flares are the smallest (my analogy: you’re cell phone drops a connection but a simple redial is all that is needed)

For those who want to double check, here you go. Need more? Google it yourself!

Just a refresher

Here is another definition of a solar flare: A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays and gamma rays at the short wavelength end. The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time!

Now we’re talkin’

From Wikipedia “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 GOES spacecraft. 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.”

I leave you with a graph for those who need a visual. Below is from

I hope you have enjoyed what I have posted…oh yes I received a message asking why I post so late. I am a mom (a working mom) and a wife first, once everyone is settled I get to relax. And yes, studying solar flares are relaxing to me. More to come!!!

Ranking of a solar flare is based on its x-ray output. Flares are classified according to the order of magnitude of the peak burst intensity (I) measured at the earth in the 0.1 to 0.8 nm wavelength band as follows: 

Peak, 0.1 to 0.8 nm band
Class (Watts/square metre)
B I < 10-6
C 10-6 I < 10-5
M 10-5 I < 10-4
X I 10-4

A multiplier is used to indicate the level within each class. For example:

M6 = 6 X 10-5 Watts/square metre


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2 responses to “How Solar Flares are Classified

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