# Directionality of solar flares

I have read a number of articles about Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and solar flares and I’m trying to establish how directional the radiation from them is.

I am aware that radiation from these solar events does not travel directly outward from the direction of the sun but follows magnetic lines of force and may be subject to eddies and other other effects that modify the direction of travel.

So my question is: What does the graph of average radiation intensity v radial distribution look like for a point in deep space (radiation intensity v degrees bearing from the line of maximum intensity) for a passing solar flare or CME? For the purpose of this question, deep Space is the region between the orbits of Venus and Mars

Edit

For the purposes of this question "radiation" refers to particulate radiation such as electrons, heavy nuclei and especially protons originating from the Sun during a solar flare or CME (peak flux in Watts per square metre).

In case that an exact answer is not available an approximate answer would be acceptable.

• This is an interesting question! There are both charged and neutral particles which may travel differently. While a snapshot of the pattern of the ejected material in space looks like a spiral (think rotating lawn sprinkler), I think the trajectories of the particles themselves is still mostly radial plus some turbulence and temperature. But let's see how wrong I turn out to be :-)
– uhoh
May 26, 2021 at 6:09
• Radiation does travel outward radially and does not follow magnetic field lines. The ejected mass (protons and alpha particles mostly) does follow the interplanetary magnetic field (sometimes confusingly called particle radiation... maybe that's where some of the confusion comes from) May 31, 2021 at 7:37
• @planetmaker thank you for that clarification. By radiation I meant the proton and particle radiation which I believe are the more significant part May 31, 2021 at 7:55
• @Slarty the main point really is when talking of particles, use clear and unambiguous terms like "particle flux", "particle density", "velocity distribution", "momentum distribution", "kinetic energy distribution" etc - radiation is a word which is commonly only associated with electromagnetic radiation. And especially "radiation intensity": what do you really mean with that? Which of the aforementioned words? Or another even? May 31, 2021 at 8:15
• Yes good point I could have been clearer. Unfortunately I'm not fully informed about this area. As an aside I think alpha and beta radiation are in common usage. May 31, 2021 at 14:00

First, I have provided some background on these phenomena at: https://astronomy.stackexchange.com/a/16786/13663

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are not the same phenomena.

I am aware that radiation from these solar events does not travel directly outward from the direction of the sun but follows magnetic lines of force and may be subject to eddies and other other effects that modify the direction of travel.

To what are you referring here? The only things that follows the magnetic field are charged particles. CMEs are huge blobs of plasma (i.e., ionized gas) that erupt from the sun and carry with them large deviations in the magnetic field. Both solar flares and CMEs can generate what are called solar energetic particle (SEP) events. CMEs can also generate something called an energetic storm particle (ESP) event. The distinction is the latter is an in situ inhancement of energetic particles that were generated by the shock ahead of the CME. The former can be generated near the Sun.

Solar flares are primarily distinguished by their localized enhancement of UV and x-ray light, neither of which cares about the magnetic field. Electromagnetic radiation propagates through space in the direction it was emitted and only really curves under extreme conditions (e.g., huge gravitational fields or extreme electromagnetic fields like those near a pulsar).

What does the graph of average radiation intensity v radial distribution look like for a point in deep space (radiation intensity v degrees bearing from the line of maximum intensity) for a passing solar flare or CME?

This depends upon what you mean by radiation. If you are asking about charged particles, then it also depends upon the event. Some CMEs "sweep up" and energize particles as they propagate so the intensity levels can actually increase with radial distance from the Sun out to varying distances (depending on CME strength etc.) then it will begin to decrease. So the answer is that it's very complicated and it depends upon the specific event. However, inside Mercury's orbit, the intensity levels of suprathermal particles (i.e., particles with kinetic energies >100 eV for electrons, >5 keV for protons) are higher, on average, than those near Earth.

For the electromagnetic radiation, that just decreases inversely squared with increasing distance from the source, as you would expect.

• Thanks for that. It helps my understanding of the problem. I was asking from the perspective of crewed space flight to discover to what extent a shield on one side of the ship would protect the crew if pointed at the Sun. Sep 2, 2021 at 18:13