Sun|Trek Adventures Solar Surface Hot Solar Atmosphere Magnetic Sun Flowing from the Sun
Sun Earth Connection Solar Spacecraft Earth and Beyond The Sun as a Star
  magnetic Sun
SDO Solar Explosions
Solar fireflies | HINODE The tanlged Sun
Up Arrow
  solar flares
Down Arrow
  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?

why does a solar flare happen at all?


Quite why solar flares happen is still largely a mystery. A very sudden release of energy from the Sun's magnetic field is one of the main suspects though.

You can see more movies in our Gallery
[Movie file 1mb or more - High quality]

The biggest question is where on Earth, or rather where on the Sun, does the energy that powers solar flares come from? This isn't an easy question to answer, but we're working on it.


Although we suspect that the Sun's magnetic field is a big part of the answer, there's a problem because we can't actually see the Sun's magnetic field directly. We have to rely on monitoring the way it controls the Sun's plasma. Images of the plasma show us that the magnetic field can be as messy as a bowl of spaghetti.

Here is a movie of a flare seen in ultraviolet radiation with the TRACE satellite. Notice how complex it is. The bright cross shape happens when the solar flare is at its brightest. This movie covers a time period of about 5 hours.


The bright loops in this picture from TRACE certainly give some idea of how complicated solar magnetic fields can be. You can imagine how difficult it is to work out how the energy is released to make solar flares happen.


What exactly is this mess of a magnetic field to do with solar flares? Well, when a magnetic field gets this tangled up there comes a point when it just can't take it anymore and - SNAP... the field "unwinds" and out comes a colossal amount of energy. Ever felt like that yourself?




Sun|trek homepage | Sun|trek Adventures | Solar Surface & Below | Hot Solar Atmosphere | Magnetic Sun | Flowing From The Sun

Sun/Earth Connection | Solar Spacecraft | Earth & Beyond | The Sun our Star | Factary | Gallery | Hot News | Contact Us