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News Flash from the Sun! Shaking Loops Cause Solar Flares - Windows to the Universe

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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
The picture above is a false-color image of loops of hot, electrified gas on the rim of the Sun, taken with the SOHO spacecraft.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of SOHO/EIT (ESA & NASA

News Flash from the Sun! Shaking Loops Cause Solar Flares
News story originally written on July 12, 2002

Even though they are far away, solar storms can affect us. They can bother our spacecraft and electrical power systems. So, it is important to NASA and other space organizations to find out how they happen and how we can predict them.

Scientists have been looking at huge loops of very hot gas that rise above the sunís surface. They found that these loops shake during solar storms. The shaking may help explain why the loops become solar flares during storms.

The loops look like huge arches on the sun. They are very large and very hot and they have a strong magnetic field that keeps the loop stretched tight.

Scientists have seen loops before, but they have never seen any like this! These loops shake back and forth very slowly every 20 minutes. The shaking may come from bursts of very energetic particles from low in the Sunís atmosphere. If these bursts of particles are very strong, they may change the loop into a solar flare!


Last modified July 18, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF