A new view of solar flares


  • Randy Showstack,

  • Ernie Tretkoff


Results from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft provide new insights that could establish a link between explosions that occur at different areas of the solar surface at the same time. Previously, it had been thought that explosions on the Sun were caused by changes in the local magnetic field at the area where the flare occurred, but for decades researchers have observed “sympathetic flares” that erupt at the same time but are not obviously connected.

The new research, described at a press conference at the AGU Fall Meeting last week, shows that the complicated changes of the Sun's magnetic field connect activity over large areas of the Sun's surface, so that solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) erupting from distant areas of the Sun may be linked by the same magnetic field activity. In the case of an event observed by SDO on 1 August 2010, eruptions as far apart as the diameter of the Sun were found to be connected.