How big are solar flares, really?

Mmmmmmm, delicious context. When the news says "massive," this is what they mean.

Thanks to Scott Stevenson for making this and sending it my way!


  1. You often crack me up, Maggie.  Not only is your enthusiasm for science infectious, your explanations are (usually) comprehensible and (mostly) interesting to the average Joe.  Best of all, you never seem the least bit self conscious about waving your geek flag proudly.  I like that in a woman.

  2. Ok, but how many bread boxes would it take to contain this solar flare. Bread boxes are my only point of reference.

  3. The eruption which is seen here is not a solar flare but the two are often associated and large solar flares more often than not have eruptions. There can be eruptions without flares and  flares without eruptions.

    The solar flare itself is only a couple earth diameters wide in terms of xray bright points (presumably) from magnetic reconnection. The eruption is the very large bit of plasma shown. Conflating the two can cause confusion when talking about their effects on space weather since they are significantly different.

    When you talk about a big flare, it is in reference to the irradiance in Earth orbit in the 1 to 8 nanometer xray band.

    When you talk about a big eruption it is in terms of mass, length, and the other metrics talked about above.

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