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When is the next solar storm expected? What effects could you expect? On that note, how far away from the Sun does a solar flare shoot?

Solar storms (which usually include flares or prominences) are associated with high numbers of sunspots. The next sunspot maximum will occur sometime in the years 2000 or 2001, and solar astronomers are predi cting that it could be one of the largest maximums ever. So the next solar storms are predicted to occur during this time period.

Although it is possible that high solar activity affects the weather patterns here on Earth, the effects are likely to be subtle. The solar flares which are produced during solar storms are most likely to produce drastic effects here on Earth. These solar flares, which arch about 400,000 kilometers above the Sun (see image to the left for size comparison), produce an increase in the number of charged particles which strike the Earth's atmosphere. This can disrup t long-distance radio communications. It also enhances the aurorae, causing them to be brighter and thus visible at unusually low latitudes.

Submitted by Johan (South Africa)
Submitted by Elliot (England)
(September 17,1997)




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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA