What does this data represent?

This chart updates every minute and is used to detect solar flares. B-Class is considered very minor, C-Class is considered minor, M-Class is considered moderate to strong and X-Class is considered strong to major. The data is collected by a sensor onboard the GOES-15 spacecraft. The GOES X-ray flux plot contains 1 minute averages of solar X-rays in the 1-8 Angstrom (0.1-0.8 nm) and 0.5-4.0 Angstrom (0.05-0.4 nm) passbands. Data from the SWPC Primary GOES X-ray satellite is shown.

Example of a strong solar flare detected by the GOES Spacecraft

What is a Solar Flare

A solar flare is a violent explosion in the Sun's atmosphere with an energy equivalent to tens of millions of hydrogen bombs. Solar flares take place in the solar corona and chromosphere, heating plasma to tens of millions of kelvins and accelerating the resulting electrons, protons and heavier ions to near the speed of light. They produce electromagnetic radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum at all wavelengths from long-wave radio to the shortest wavelength Gamma rays. Most flares occur around sunspots, where intense magnetic fields emerge from the Sun's surface into the corona. The energy efficiency associated with solar flares may take several hours or even days to build up, but most flares take only a matter of minutes to release their energy.

Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X according to the peak flux (in watts per square meter, W/m2) of 100 to 800 picometer X-rays near Earth, as measured on the GOES spacecraft. Each class has a peak flux ten times greater than the preceding one, with X class flares having a peak flux of order 10-4 W/m2. Within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9, so an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare, and is four times more powerful than an M5 flare. The more powerful M and X class flares are often associated with a variety of effects on the near-Earth space environment.

Solar Flares are many times responsible for ejecting plasma outwards into space, sometimes towards Earth. This is known as a Coronal Mass Ejection or CME.

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