Solar flares explode with huge energy thanks to a simple magnetic phenomenon

The secret to what drives powerful solar flares is literally in the palm of your hand.

Astronomers have discovered that one of the most important magnetic effect at work on the sun is the same one that fastens your cell phone’s magnetic flip cover. But on the sun, the result is much more dramatic: Twisted magnetic fields carrying streams of hot charged plasma become entwined, then snap and rapidly reorganize. That so-called fast magnetic reconnection releases huge quantities of energy, and Earth is often subject to the accompanying flares, plasma bursts and geomagnetic storms.

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