Solar Flares: Transcript

What are solar flares?
RHESSI's Principal Investigator Bob Lin explains this mysterious phenomenon.

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What are Solar Flares?

LIN: Now we're getting to the things that I really like to talk about because solar flares are really gigantic explosions, the most powerful explosions in the solar system. And these explosions will release equivalent to billions of tons of TNT, so they're much, much more energetic than any of the atomic and hydrogen bombs that exploded on the Earth. And the sun releases this energy in a very short time, a time scale of seconds to minutes. How it does that nobody understands. It seems to have to do with strong magnetic fields and sunspots. The other interesting fact that we've learned is that when it releases this energy, a large fraction of this energy, of the explosion energy, goes into accelerating hydrogen particles. Again this is something that we don't understand - how can the sun accelerate these high energy particles so efficiently and so rapidly?

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