What Is A Solar Flare?

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By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - Solar flares are the result of magnetic energy explosions on the surface of the Sun. NASA says when these occur, the sun lets off a wave of intense radiation equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time.

The Earth's magnetic field protects us from the radiation released from these flares, but strong flares have been known to disrupt satellite and radio transmissions and electrical power plants.

The flip side is: As flares interact with our own magnetic field, it can touch off dazzling displays of the Northern Lights.

The sun routinely goes through active and quiet periods and flares are common during active periods. There have been a handful of flares over the past week, and the Northern Lights have been visible in the Northwest as a result.

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