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Bless You, Sun

When the Sun sneezes, UNH scientists don't just say "gesundheit." They take its temperature.

Solar "sneezes" are actually small explosions called impulsive solar flares. While the surface of the Sun is a robust 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, UNH space scientist Eberhard Moebius and other researchers have measured the temperature of "sneezes" at a feverish 18 million degrees.

Is the Sun ill? Not at all. But scientists are learning more about the high-speed atoms with a UNH-developed instrument, the Solar Energetic Particle Ionic Charge Analyzer, aboard a NASA satellite orbiting in space.

Some of the researchers' findings include an unusual concentration of a rare helium isotope in the flare particles, and unexplained interruptions in their path to Earth along magnetic field lines.

Strong solar flares are often associated with huge blast "waves" that strike the Earth's magnetic field. They play a part in both the Northern Lights and magnetic storms that can interrupt communications on Earth.

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