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A Public Outreach Module:
Solar Wind, Genesis, and the Planets

What are CMEs?

We experienced the 23rd Solar Max
in the year 2000!

High-energy coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and flares are dramatic solar activities that are closely related to and occur simultaneously with the release of magnetic energy into the solar atmosphere from prominences in the sun's chromosphere, the layer of the sun under the corona.

These prominences are sometimes spectacular bright loops of hot gas that arch high above the top of the chromosphere and often extend into the corona. Some of them have widths the size of Earth while others may approach half the diameter of the sun. Prominences often are association with sunspots and the may hold their shape for months before collapsing. Others erupt from the chromosphere as gaseous streamers.

CMEs and flares occurring during a Solar Max typically begin as a prominence loop that explodes within just a few hours. CMEs release all sorts of solar plasma particles into space, while flares discharge a strong blast of electromagnetic radiation, including x-rays and ultraviolet rays.

Flare temperatures may reach 550 million Kelvins, which is several times hotter than the sun itself, and, if it could be harnessed, the power of a CME or flare would be sufficient to provide energy needs of the Earth's inhabitants for millions of years.


For a more technical description, take a Closer Look at
The Structured Sun and Solar Max: At the Core of the Matter

The Structured Sun and Solar Max button
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Curator: Aimee Meyer
Updated: November 2009

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