Solar Flares

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12434

Besides providing heat and light, how can a big fireball millions of miles away affect the earth? Do thunderstorms trouble you at all? Wait until you read about what storms on the sun are like!


Space Science and Astronomy

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start
  • Have you ever watched the waves at the beach?

Image - Video

  • Did you know that there are waves on the sun?
  • How do you think they differ from the waves on the ocean?
  • Have you ever explored a shoreline and seen different-sized waves?

Many things can impact the size of ocean waves, including the terrain below the surface, the weather, and the time of day.

Gases on the sun's surface move similarly to the water found in the ocean. The gases in the sun also create waves of various sizes and at different locations on the surface of the sun.

The same type of energy that causes ocean waves causes these solar waves. These bursts of energy from the sun can impact our systems on the earth.

solar flares erupting in waves from the sun

We call these explosions on the sun solar flares. During a solar flare, much energy is released from the sun's surface into the solar system, which travels toward the planets, including the earth.

Solar flares don't last a long time — only a couple of minutes — but they can cause great damage.

The energy of a solar flare can be up to ten million times more than that of an erupting volcano, with temperatures reaching two million degrees Fahrenheit!

They also release damaging rays, called gamma rays, that can kill plants and cause human skin cancer.

Solar flares can interrupt communication systems on the earth. Most of our satellites and equipment for communication orbit the earth in the outer layer of the atmosphere.

satellite in space

When a solar flare is released from the sun, it can damage these objects. This can make long-distance communication more difficult.

Solar flares do not occur often, and we can generally predict when they might occur. That allows us to prepare for possible damage.

While solar flares usually do not change the earth's temperature, they impact the radiation traveling to the earth and the functioning of our communication systems.

  • Why might you consider preparing for a solar flare important?

Head to the Got It? section to read a newspaper to learn more about solar flares.

Image - Button Next