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Solar Max snaps a big, bright flare.

Solar Max snaps a big, brilliant flare

On March 6, a giant solar flare, one of the largest of the last decade, erupted from the sun's eastern edge. An X-ray detector on NASA's Solar Maximum Mission satellite managed to capture images of the flare at its peak. The computer-processed image (left) shows the intensity of X-rays at a wavelength of 1.85 angstroms, which represents radiation emitted by iron atoms stripped of all but two electrons. Such X-rays are detectable only when a solar flare erupts. The temperature within the flare's hot plasma exceeded 10 million kelvins, contrasting with the balmier 3-million-kelvin temperatures typically observed in the sun's corona. The jagged white lines mark the sun's edge.

The flare erupted from a large cluster of sunspots, which remained visible for about two weeks as the sun rorated on its axis. The sunspot image (right) from the Solar Optical Observing Network station in Holloman, N.M., shows the cluster on March 9, when it was farther from the sun's edge. By the time the cluster directly faced Earth, researchers had observed seven large, or "X," flares and many smaller ones. However, none of these later flares matched the intensity of the first one, rated near the top of the scale at X15.
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Title Annotation:solar flare
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 18, 1989
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