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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Again, it helps tremendously in answering these questions to have taken Astronomy 101 at Furman University (as an elective, mind you) so many years ago.  As a result, solar flares (like so many other astronomical phenomena) stand out clearly in my mind. 

A solar flare is an occurrence in one of the Sun's three layers, specifically the chromosphere or middle layer.  The Sun consists of three layers of different heat and intensity.  The three layers are the photosphere, chromosphere, and corona.

In the photosphere, the layer closest to the earth is where we observe solar spots.  These are areas of decreased temperature and energy.  There is a difference of approximately 2500 degrees in the atmosphere and the sunspots.  The chromosphere, from which are sent solar flares, is also the producer of UV rays.  These solar flares are intense releases of energy and heat.  They affect all layers of the Sun's atmosphere, even though they burst forth from the chromosphere.

The activity or frequency of solar flares has great variability within an 11 year cycle.  At times solar flares occur several times daily, while at other times there may only be one solar flare in a week.  Solar flares were first observed as solar events occurring within or from sunspots. 

In July of 2012 there was an event called the solar superstorm occurred in which there was a mass ejection of solar flares.  This solar emission barely missed the earth.  Further, a solar flare is REALLY neat to observe, especially with a specialized telescope that will protect the eyes from the harmful UV rays.

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