What are solar flares and geomagnetic storms? Explained here

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A number of solar storms have hit the earth over the last few weeks. Here’s all you need to know about these solar storms and and the geomagnetic storms they spark.

The Sun is in the middle of its 11-year solar cycle. As a result of increased activity, scientists and researchers have observed multiple solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections, triggering geomagnetic storms on earth. Fortunately, no major effect has been seen as of now, however, a really powerful solar storm could create havoc on earth and cause GPS, radio and power grid blackouts. According to NASA, solar flares are an intense burst of radiation caused due to the release of energy from sunspots. Dark spots on the Sun’s surface are called sunspots. Though they are cooler than other areas of the Sun’s surface, the temperature there is still somewhere around 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here’s everything you need to know about these solar storms, Solar flares and CMEs.

What is a geomagnetic storm?

A geomagnetic storm takes place after a solar flare from the sun reaches the space surrounding Earth through solar wind. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these storms can heat the ionosphere – where Earth’s atmosphere ends and hence causing beautiful auroras here on Earth.

What is a solar flare?

A solar flare is a powerful burst of radiation caused by the release of magnetic energy from a sunspot. They are the greatest explosive events of the Solar System. They appear as bright areas in the sun and can last for a minute to several hours. A solar flare is visible by the photons (or light) it releases, at almost every wavelength of the spectrum. X-rays and optical light are the primary methods used to observe these solar flares.

How hot are solar flares? Well, according to NASA, the temperature in a solar flare can reach anywhere between 10 million degrees Kelvin (18 million degrees Fahrenheit) to 100 million degrees Kelvin. If you compare that with the temperature in the core of the Sun, then that is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius).

What causes a solar flare?

The sun’s surface is a pretty active region containing electrically charged gasses that generate strong magnetic fields in some regions. These electrically charged gasses generate powerful magnetic fields that are stretched, twisted, and tangled due to rotating gases. This also leads to solar activity.

 

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