This is a question we are often asked: what is the difference between a coronal mass ejection (CME) and a solar flare? We discussed it in a recent astrophoto post, but today NASA put out a video with amazing graphics that explains it — and visualizes it — extremely well.
“CMEs and solar flares are both explosions that occur on the Sun,” the folks at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio explain. “Sometimes they occur together, but they are not the same thing.”
CMEs are giant clouds of particles from the Sun hurled out into space, while flares are flashes of light — occurring in various wavelengths — on the Sun.
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You can find even more details from NASA here.