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  who first noticed solar flares?
  a closer look at solar flares
  why does a solar flare happen at all?
  big, bigger, biggest solar flares!
  how explosive are solar flares?
  are solar flares dangerous?

are solar flares dangerous?


Here on Earth we are well protected so there is no danger from solar flares. However, if you're out in space solar flares could be lethal. That's because solar flares send out lots of X-rays and high-energy particles when they explode, and both of those are harmful to the human body.


High-energy particles from flares move so fast that they escape from the Sun out into space. They can hit any satellites, astronauts or spacecraft that are outside the safety of the Earth's magnetic shield and its atmosphere

It's important to be able to warn astronauts when a solar flare is happening so they can move to a part of their spaceship where they are best protected against the radiation. That’s another good reason to study and to try and understand solar flares.


The only other dangerous flares are the GROOVY flares of the 1970s. Dangerous as fashion accessories, maybe, but nothing else!

You can see more movies in our Gallery

So how come we don't suffer from solar flares here on Earth?

The Earth is shielded by its atmosphere and magnetic field, which protect us from the X-rays and particles by absorbing them or deflecting them around the Earth. More information on this is in our 'Sun-Earth Connection/Space Weather' section.


The Earth’s magnetic field shields us from most of the particles, but some still get through and their effect becomes visible when they swoop down onto the atmosphere near the poles. Here they can often produce a spectacular natural fireworks display called the aurora. So there is a plus side to dangerous flares.




This is a picture of the aurora borealis taken by Dr. Sally Ride from the Space Shuttle

(credit: San Diego Space Physics Center)




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