Solar Flares

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12434

Other than providing heat and light, how can a big fireball millions of miles away from Earth affect us? 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!


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 along the way?

Before moving on, did you check out the previous Space Science lessons found in the right-hand sidebar under Related Lessons?

Many things can impact the size of ocean waves, including the terrain below the surface, the weather, and time of day. Gases on the surface of the sun 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 on the sun can impact our systems on the earth.

We call these explosions on the sun "solar flares." During a solar flare, a large amount of energy is released from the surface of the sun into the solar system, where it travels towards 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 skin cancer in humans.

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.

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 end up changing the temperature on the earth, they do have an impact on the radiation traveling to the earth and the functioning of our communication systems.

Discuss with a parent or teacher what you have learned, and why it might be important to prepare for a solar flare, before moving on.

In the Got It? section, you will read a newspaper to learn more about solar flares.

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