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Q & A: The Difference between Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections

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Most recent answer: 01/17/2013
Difference between solar flare and coronal mass ejetion
- kritika (age 12)

The main difference between solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) is the scale on which they occur. Solar flares are relatively small and local, taking place in the low solar atmosphere, near sunspots, where magnetic field lines are concentrated. CMEs on the other hand are absolutely huge. They can even be bigger than the sun itself! Another difference is that solar flares develop more rapidly and produce intense X rays and gamma rays which means that a flare can reach the Earth in about eight minutes, the amount of time it takes light from the Sun to reach the Earth. CMEs form slowly and do not produce intense light.

 CMEs and solar flares are believed to be caused by something called "magnetic re-connection" where highly fluctuating magnetic fields collapse to a lower-energy state.  In CMEs that allows coronal matter to be ejected through a "magnetic shockwave" which usually takes 18 to 36 hours to reach Earth. CMEs can have a huge effect on electrical systems on Earth.

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(published on 01/17/2013)

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