University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Tuesday, March 10th 2015
1:25 pm:
Space Physics Seminar in 210 Physics
Speaker: Sabrina Savage, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Subject: Solar Flares

The Earth is bathed in the atmosphere of our nearest stellar neighbor. Therefore, events occuring on the Sun's surface directly affect us by interfering with satellite operations and communications, astronaut safety, and, in extreme circumstances, power grid stability. Solar flares are a substantial source of hazardous space weather affecting our increasingly technology-dependent society and are the most energetic events in our solar system. Ground-based telescopes have been providing flare observations for over 150 years, but we now live in an era when modern space-bourne observatories provide us with even more stunning visualizations of twisted plasma escaping the Sun's surface. At the same time, these instruments give us the tools necessary to explore the physical mechanisms behind such enormous displays of energy release like never before. With nearly continuous multi-wavelength flare coverage, we can now probe the origins and evolution of flares by tracking particle acceleration, changes in ionized plasma, and the reorganization of magnetic fields. I will present some details behind flare mechanics, particularly magnetic reconnection which is a ubiquitous form of energy release throughout the cosmos, and how they affect the Earth while showing several examples of these truly fantastic explosions.

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