Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). While these are the most common solar events, the sun can also emit streams of very fast protons -- known as solar energetic particle (SEP) events -- and disturbances in the solar wind known as corotating interaction regions (CIRs). All of these can produce a variety of "storms" on Earth that can -- if strong enough -- interfere with short wave radio communications, GPS signals, and Earth's power grid, among other things.
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