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Solar Storms

You know that there are all kinds of storms here on Earth - thunderstorms, blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes. The Sun also has storms.

There are two different kinds of storms on the Sun. They are called solar flares and CMEs (short for Coronal Mass Ejections). Solar flares last only a few minutes to as long as an hour. CMEs usually last a few hours. Even in this short amount of time, both storms on the Sun can give off more energy than 100 hurricanes on Earth!

The energy from solar storms can be dangerous if it reaches Earth! Astronauts on spacewalks are in danger of radiation exposure, and electronics on satellites can be fried. We're safe here on Earth because of the shield the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere provide.

Sometimes, solar storms do offer us a wonderful (safe!) treat. The beautiful aurora (Northern and Southern Lights) are results of solar storms.

Some "seasons" are stormier than others on the Sun. More storms happen in the height of the 11-year solar cycle or near solar maximum times.

Last modified January 12, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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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