Solar flares are classified on a scale of importance ranging from 3+ (largest area) to 1- (smallest area). The largest solar flares eject a mass of about 10 billion tons at a speed of roughly 1,500 km/s.
Types of solar flareFlares release energy in many forms – electromagnetic (gamma rays and X-rays), energetic particles (protons and electrons), and mass flows. Flares are characterized by their brightness in X-rays (X-ray flux). The biggest flares are X-class flares. M-class flares have a tenth the energy and C-class flares have a tenth of the X-ray flux seen in M-class flares.
A proton flare is a flare producing significant fluxes of greater-than-10 MeV protons in the vicinity of the Earth.
Flare observationsSolar flares are often observed using filters to isolate the light emitted by hydrogen atoms in the red region of the solar spectrum (the H-alpha spectral line). Most solar observatories have H-alpha telescopes and some observatories monitor the Sun for solar flares by capturing images of the Sun every few seconds.
Flares and magnetic shearThe key to understanding and predicting solar flares is the structure of the magnetic field around sunspots. If this structure becomes twisted and sheared then magnetic field lines can cross and reconnect with the explosive release of energy.
Related category SOLAR TOPICS
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