Jan 022018
A very complete glossary of solar-terrestrial terms.
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A very complete glossary of solar-terrestrial terms.
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Contents of the SOLAR.TXT file


a INDEX. A 3-hourly "equivalent amplitude" index of local geomagnetic
activity; "a" is related to the 3-hourly K INDEX according to
the following scale:

K 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
a 0 3 7 15 27 48 80 140 240 400

A INDEX. A daily index of geomagnetic activity derived as the average of
the eight 3-hourly a indices.

ACTIVE. Geomagnetic levels such that 15 <= Ap < 30.


ACTIVE LONGITUDE. The approximate center of a range of heliographic
longitudes in which ACTIVE REGIONS are more numerous and more
FLARE-active than the average.

ACTIVE PROMINENCE. A PROMINENCE displaying material motion and changes
in appearance over a few minutes of time.

ACTIVE PROMINENCE REGION (APR). A portion of the solar LIMB displaying

ACTIVE REGION (AR). A localized, transient volume of the solar atmosphere
in which PLAGEs, SUNSPOTS, FACULAe, FLAREs, etc. may be observed.

ACTIVE SURGE REGION (ASR). An ACTIVE REGION that exhibits a group or
series of spike-like surges that rise above the limb.

AFRED. Abbreviation for the A INDEX for Fredericksburg.

ANGSTROM. A unit of length = 1.0E-08cm.

Ap INDEX. An averaged planetary A INDEX based on data from a set of specific

ARCH FILAMENT SYSTEM (AFS). A bright, compact PLAGE crossed by a system of
small, arched FILAMENTS, which is often a sign of rapid or contin-
ued growth in an ACTIVE REGION.

ASTRONOMICAL UNIT (AU). The mean earth-sun distance, equal to 1.496E+13cm
or 214.94 solar radii.

AURORA. A faint visual phenomenon associated with geomagnetic activity,
which occurs mainly in the high-latitude night sky; typical
auroras are 100 to 250 km above the ground.

AURORAL OVAL. An oval band around each geomagnetic pole which is the locus
of structured AURORAe.

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX. The EQUINOX that occurs in September.

BARTEL'S ROTATION NUMBER. The serial number assigned to 27-day rotation
periods of solar and geophysical parameters. Rotation 1 in this
sequence was assigned arbitrarily by Bartel to begin in January

BRIGHT SURGE ON THE DISK (BSD). A bright gaseous stream (SURGE) emanating

BRIGHT SURGE ON THE LIMB (BSL). A large gaseous stream (SURGE) that moves
outward more than 0.15 solar radius above the LIMB.

BURST. A transient enhancement of the solar RADIO EMISSION, usually
associated with an ACTIVE REGION or FLARE.

CARRINGTON LONGITUDE. A system of fixed longitudes rotating with the sun.

CENTIMETER BURST. A solar radio burst in the centimeter wavelength range.

feature across the longitude meridian that passes through the
apparent center of the solar DISK.

CHROMOSPHERE. The layer of the solar atmosphere above the PHOTOSPHERE and
beneath the TRANSITION REGION and the CORONA.

CONJUGATE POINTS. Two points on the earth's surface, at opposite ends of a
geomagnetic field line.

CONTINUUM STORM (CTM). General term for solar noise lasting for hours and
sometimes days.

COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME. By international agreement, the local time at
the prime meridian, which passes through Greenwich, England.
Therefore, it is also known as GREENWICH MEAN TIME, or sometimes

CORONA. The outermost layer of the solar atmosphere, characterized by low
densities (<1.0E+09/cc) and high temperatures (>1,0E+06deg.K).

CORONAL HOLE. An extended region of the CORONA, exceptionally low in density
and associated with unipolar photospheric regions.

CORONAL RAIN (CRN). Material condensing in the CORONA and appearing to rain
down into the CHROMOSPHERE as observed in H-ALPHA at the solar LIMB
above strong SUNSPOTS.

CORONAL TRANSIENTS. A general term for short-time-scale changes in the
CORONA, but principally used to describe outward-moving PLASMA

COSMIC RAY. An extremely energetic (relativistic) charged particle.

CROCHET. A sudden deviation in the sunlit geomagnetic field (H component;
see GEOMAGNETIC ELEMENTS) associated with large solar FLARE X-ray

D REGION. A daytime layer of the earth's IONOSPHERE approximately 50 to
90 km in altitude.

DARK SURGE ON DISK (DSD). Dark gaseous ejections visible in H-ALPHA.

latitudes rotate at a faster angular rate (approx. 14 degrees per
day) than do high latitudes (approx. 12 degrees per day).

DISAPPEARING SOLAR FILAMENT (DSF). The sudden (timescale of minutes to
hours) disappearance of a solar FILAMENT (PROMINENCE).

DISK. The visible surface of the sun (or any heavenly body) projected
against the sky.

Dst INDEX. A geomagnetic index describing variations in the equatorial RING

E REGION. A daytime layer of the earth's ionosphere roughly between the
altitudes of 85 and 140 km.

EMERGING FLUX REGION (EFR). An area on the sun where new magnetic flux is

ted and is seen to ascend from the sun.

EXTREMELY LOW FREQUENCY (ELF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum
from 30 to 3000 hertz.

EXTREME ULTRAVIOLET (EUV). A portion of the electromagnetic spectrum from
approximately 100 to 1000 angstroms.

F CORONA. Of the white-light CORONA (that is, the corona seen by the eye at
a total solar ECLIPSE), that portion which is caused by sunlight
scattered or reflected by solid particles (dust) in inter-
planetary space.

F REGION. The upper layer of the IONOSPHERE, approximately 120 to 1500 km
in altitude. The F region is subdivided into the F1 and F2
regions. The F2 region is the most dense and peaks at altitudes
between 200 and 600 km. The F1 region is a smaller peak in
electron density, which forms at lower altitudes in the daytime.

FACULA. A bright region of the PHOTOSPHERE seen in white light, seldom
visible except near the solar LIMB.

FIBRIL. A linear pattern in the H-ALPHA CHROMOSPHERE of the sun, as seen
through an H-alpha filter, occurring near strong SUNSPOTS and
PLAGE or in FILAMENT channels.

FILAMENT. A mass of gas suspended over the PHOTOSPHERE by magnetic fields
and seen as dark lines threaded over the solar DISK. A filament
on the LIMB of the sun seen in emission against the dark sky is
called a PROMINENCE.

FILAMENT CHANNEL. A broad pattern of FIBRILS in the CHROMOSPHERE, marking
where a FILAMENT may soon form or where a filament recently

FLARE. A sudden eruption of energy on the solar DISK lasting minutes to
hours, from which radiation and particles are emitted.

fMIN. The lowest radiowave frequency that can be reflected from the

foEs. The maximum ORDINARY MODE radiowave frequency capable of reflec-
tion from the SPORADIC E REGION of the IONOSPHERE.

foF2. The maximum ORDINARY MODE radiowave frequency capable of reflec-
tion from the F2 REGION of the IONOSPHERE.

FORBUSH DECREASE. An abrupt decrease, of at least 10%, of the background
galactic COSMIC RAY intensity as observed by neutron monitors.

GAMMA. A unit of magnetic field intensity equal to 1 x 10.0E-05 GAUSS,
also equal to 1 NANOTESLA.

GAMMA RAYS. High energy radiation (energies in excess of 100 keV) observed
during large, extremely energetic solar FLARES.

GAUSS. The unit of magnetic induction in the cgs (centimeter-gram-
second) system.

GEOMAGNETIC ELEMENTS. The components of the geomagnetic field at the sur-
face of the earth. In SESC use, the northward and eastward
components are often called the H and D components, where the
D component is expressed in gammas and is derived from D (the
declination angle) using the small angle approximation.

GEOMAGNETIC FIELD. The magnetic fiebserved in and around the earth.
The intensity of the magnetic field at the earth's surface is
approximately 0.32 gauss at the equator and 0.62 gauss at the
north pole.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM. A worldwide disturbance of the earth's magnetic field,
distinct from regular diurnal variations.

Minor Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was
greater than 29 and less than 50.

Major Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was
greater than 49 and less than 100.

Severe Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was
100 or more.

Initial Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when there
may be an increase of the MIDDLE-LATITUDE horizontal
intensity (H).

Main Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when the hori-
zontal magnetic field at middle latitudes is generally

Recovery Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when the
depressed northward field component returns to normal levels.

GEOSYNCHRONOUS. Term applied to any equatorial satellite with an orbital
velocity equal to the rotational velocity of the earth. The net
effect is that the satellite is virtually motionless with respect
to an observer on the ground.


GRADUAL COMMENCEMENT. The commencement of a geomagnetic storm that has
no well-defined onset.

GRANULATION. Cellular structure of the PHOTOSPHERE visible at high spatial

GREEN LINE. The green line is one of the strongest (and first-recognized)
visible coronal lines. It identifies moderate temperature regions
of the CORONA.


GROUND-LEVEL EVENT (GLE). A sharp increase in ground-level COSMIC RAY count
to at least 10% above background, associated with solar protons of
energies greater than 500 MeV. GLEs are relatively rare, occur-
ring only a few times each SOLAR CYCLE.

H-ALPHA. This ABSORPTION LINE of neutral hydrogen falls in the red part of
the visible spectrum and is convenient for solar observations.
The H-alpha line is universally used for patrol observations of
solar flares.

H-component of the Geomagnetic Field. See GEOMAGNETIC ELEMENTS.

HIGH FREQUENCY (HF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum between
between 3 and 30 MHz.

HIGH LATITUDES. With specific reference to zones of geomagnetic activity,
"high latitudes" refers to 50o to 80o geomagnetic.

HIGH-SPEED STREAM. A feature of the SOLAR WIND having velocities that are
about double average solar wind values.

HOMOLOGOUS FLARES. Solar flares that occur repetitively in the same ACTIVE
REGION, with essentially the same position and with a common
pattern of development.

HYDER FLARE. A FILAMENT-associated TWO-RIBBON FLARE, often occurring in
spotless regions. The flare presumably results from the impact
on the CHROMOSPHERE of infalling FILAMENT material.

INTERPLANETARY MAGNETIC FIELD (IMF). The magnetic field carried with the

IONOSPHERE. The region of the earth's upper atmosphere containing a small
percentage of free electrons and ions produced by photoioniza-
tion of the constituents of the atmosphere by solar ultraviolet
radiation at very short wavelengths (<1000 angstroms). The
ionosphere significantly influences radiowave propagation of fre-
quencies less than about 30 MHz.

IONOSPHERIC STORM. A disturbance in the F REGION of the IONOSPHERE, which
occurs in connection with geomagnetic activity.

K CORONA. Of the white-light CORONA (that is, the corona seen by the eye at a
total solar eclipse), that portion which is caused by sunlight
scattered by electrons in the hot outer atmosphere of the sun.

K INDEX. A 3-hourly quasi-logarithmic local index of geomagnetic activity
relative to an assumed quiet-day curve for the recording site.
Range is from 0 to 9. The K index measures the deviation of the
most disturbed horizontal component.

KELVIN. A unit of absolute temperature.

Kp INDEX. A 3-hourly planetary geomagnetic index of activity generated in
Gottingen, Germany, based on the K INDEX from 12 or 13 stations
distributed around the world.

LEADER SPOT. In a magnetically bipolar or multipolar SUNSPOT group, the
western part precedes and the main spot in that part is called the

LIGHT BRIDGE. Observed in white light, a bright tongue or streaks penetra-
ting or crossing SUNSPOT UMBRAe. The appearance of a light bridge
is frequently a sign of impending region division or dissolution.

LIMB. The edge of the solar DISK.

LIMB FLARE. A solar FLARE seen at the edge (LIMB) of the sun.

LOOP PROMINENCE SYSTEM (LPS). A system of loop prominences associated with
major FLARES.

LOW FREQUENCY (LF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum from 30 to
300 kHz.

M 3000. The optimum HIGH FREQUENCY radio wave with a 3000 km range, which
reflects only once from the IONOSPHERE (single hop transmission).

MAGNETIC BAY. A relatively smooth excursion of the H (horizontal) component
(see GEOMAGNETIC ELEMENTS) of the geomagnetic field away from and
returning to quiet levels.

MAGNETOGRAM. Solar magnetograms are a graphic representation of solar mag-
netic field strengths and polarity.

MAGNETOPAUSE. The boundary layer between the SOLAR WIND and the MAGNETO-

MAGNETOSPHERE. The magnetic cavity surrounding the earth, carved out of the
passing SOLAR WIND by virtue of the GEOMAGNETIC FIELD, which pre-
vents, or at least impedes, the direct entry of the solar wind
PLASMA into the cavity.

MeV. Mega (million) electronvolt. A unit of energy used to describe the
total energy carried by a particle or photon.

MEDIUM FREQUENCY (MF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum from 0.3
to 3 MHz.

MICROWAVE BURST. A radiowave signal associated with optical and/or X-ray

MIDDLE LATITUDES. With specific reference to zones of geomagnetic activity,
"middle latitudes" refers to 20 deg. to 50 deg. geomagnetic.


Alpha. Denotes a unipolar SUNSPOT group.

Beta. A sunspot group having both positive and negative mag-
netic polarities, with a simple and distinct division between
the polarities.

Beta-Gamma. A sunspot group that is bipolar but in which no
continuous line can be drawn separating spots of opposite

Delta. A complex magnetic configuration of a solar sunspot
group consisting of opposite polarity UMBRAe within the same

Gamma. A complex ACTIVE REGION in which the positive and nega-
tive polarities are so irregularly distributed as to prevent
classification as a bipolar group.

NANOTESLA (nT). A unit of magnetism 10.0E-09 tesla, equivalent to a gamma
(10.0E-05 gauss).

NEUTRAL LINE. The line that separates longitudinal magnetic fields of oppo-
site polarity.

PENUMBRA. The SUNSPOT area that may surround the darker UMBRA or umbrae. It
consists of linear bright and dark elements radial from the sunspot

PERSISTENCE. Continuation of existing conditions. When a physical parameter
varies slowly, the best prediction is often persistence.

PHOTOSPHERE. The lowest layer of the solar atmosphere; corresponds to the
solar surface viewed in WHITE LIGHT. SUNSPOTs and FACULAe are
observed in the photosphere.

PLAGE. An extended emission feature of an ACTIVE REGION that exists from
the emergence of the first magnetic flux until the widely scattered
remnant magnetic fields merge with the background.

PLAGE CORRIDOR. A space in chromospheric (see CHROMOSPHERE) PLAGE lacking
plage intensity, coinciding with polarity inversion line.

PLASMA. Any ionized gas, that is, any gas containing ions and electrons.

POLAR CAP ABSORPTION (PCA). An anomalous condition of the polar IONOSPHERE
whereby HF and VHF (3 - 300 MHz) radiowaves are absorbed, and LF
and VLF (3 - 300 kHz) radiowaves are reflected at lower altitudes
than normal. In practice, the absorption is inferred from the
proton flux at energies greater than 10 MeV, so that PCAs and
PROTON EVENTs are simultaneous. Transpolar radio paths may still
be disturbed for days, up to weeks, following the end of a proton

RIBBON FLARE, which bridges the ribbons.

PROMINENCE. A term identifying cloud-like features in the solar atmosphere.
The features appear as bright structures in the CORONA above the
solar LIMB and as dark FILAMENTs when seen projected against the
solar DISK.

PROTON EVENT. By definition, the measurement of at least 10
protons/sq.cm/sec/steradian at energies greater than 10 MeV.

PROTON FLARE. Any FLARE producing significant FLUXes of greater-than-10 MeV
protons in the vicinity of the earth.

QUIESCENT PROMINENCE (FILAMENT). Long, sheet-like prominences nearly vertical
to the solar surface.

QUIET. A descriptive word specifically meaning geomagnetic levels such that
Ap < 8 (see Ap INDEX).

RADIO EMISSION. Emissions of the sun in radio wavelengths from centimeters
to dekameters, under both quiet and disturbed conditions.

Type I. A noise storm composed of many short, narrow-band bursts
in the metric range (300 - 50 MHz).

Type II. Narrow-band emission that begins in the meter range
(300 MHz) and sweeps slowly (tens of minutes) toward deka-
meter wavelengths (10 MHz). Type II emissions occur in
loose association with major FLAREs and are indicative of
a SHOCK wave moving through the solar atmosphere.

Type III. Narrow-band bursts that sweep rapidly (seconds) from
decimeter to dekameter wavelengths (500 - 0.5 MHz). They
often occur in groups and are an occasional feature of complex

Type IV. A smooth continuum of broad-band bursts primarily in the
meter range (300 - 30 MHz). These bursts are associated with
some major flare events beginning 10 to 20 minutes after the
flare maximum, and can last for hours.

RECURRENCE. Used especially in reference to the recurrence of physical
parameters every 27 days (the rotation period of the sun).

RIOMETER (Relative Ionospheric Opacity meter). A specially designed radio
receiver for continuous monitoring of COSMIC NOISE. The
absorption of cosmic noise in the polar regions is very
sensitive to the solar low-energy cosmic ray flux.

SECTOR BOUNDARY. In the SOLAR WIND, the area of demarcation between sec-
tors, which are large-scale features distinguished by the
predominant direction of the interplanetary magnetic field,
toward or away from the sun.

SHORT WAVE FADE (SWF). A particular ionospheric solar flare effect under
the broad category of sudden ionospheric disturbances (SIDs)
whereby short-wavelength radio transmissions, VLF, through
HF, are absorbed for a period of minutes to hours.

SMOOTHED SUNSPOT NUMBER. An average of 13 monthly RI numbers, centered on
the month of concern.


Central Meridian Distance (CMD). The angular distance in solar
longitude measured from the central meridian.

SOLAR CYCLE. The approximately 11-year quasi-periodic variation in frequency
or number of solar active events.

SOLAR MAXIMUM. The month(s) during the SOLAR CYCLE when the 12-month mean
of monthly average SUNSPOT NUMBERS reaches a maximum. The most
recent solar maximum occurred in December 1979.

SOLAR MINIMUM. The month(s) during the SOLAR CYCLE when the 12-month mean
of monthly average SUNSPOT NUMBERS reaches a minimum.

SOLAR SECTOR BOUNDARY (SSB). The apparent solar origin, or base, of the
interplanetary SECTOR BOUNDARY marked by the larger-scale polarity
inversion lines.

SOLAR WIND. The outward flux of solar particles and magnetic fields from the
sun. Typically, solar wind velocities are near 350 km/s.

SPORADIC E. A phenomenon occurring in the E REGION of the IONOSPHERE, which
significantly affects HF radiowave propagation. Sporadic E can
occur during daytime or nighttime and it varies markedly with

SUDDEN COMMENCEMENT(SC, or SSC for Storm Sudden Commencement). An abrupt
increase or decrease in the northward component of the geomagnetic
field, which marks the beginning of a GEOMAGNETIC STORM.

SUDDEN IMPULSE (SI+ or SI-). A sudden perturbation of several gammas
in the northward component of the low-latitude geomagnetic field,
not associated with a following GEOMAGNETIC STORM. (An SI becomes
an SC if a storm follows.)

SUDDEN IONOSPHERIC DISTURBANCE (SID). HF propagation anomalies due to
ionospheric changes resulting from solar FLAREs, PROTON EVENTs

SUNSPOT. An area seen as a dark spot on the PHOTOSPHERE of the sun. Sunspots
are concentrations of magnetic flux, typically occurring in bipolar
clusters or groups. They appear dark because they are cooler than
the surrounding photosphere.

SUNSPOT GROUP CLASSIFICATION (Modified Zurich Sunspot Classification).

A - A small single unipolar SUNSPOT or very small group of
spots without PENUMBRA.

B - Bipolar sunspot group with no penumbra.

C - An elongated bipolar sunspot group. One sunspot must have

D - An elongated bipolar sunspot group with penumbra on both ends
of the group.

E - An elongated bipolar sunspot group with penumbra on both
ends. Longitudinal extent of penumbra exceeds 10 deg. but
not 15 deg.

F - An elongated bipolar sunspot group with penumbra on both
ends. Longitudinal extent of penumbra exceeds 15 deg.

H - A unipolar sunspot group with penumbra.

SUNSPOT NUMBER. A daily index of SUNSPOT activity (R), defined as
R = k (10 g + s) where S = number of individual spots, g =
number of sunspot groups, and k is an observatory factor.

SURGE. A jet of material from ACTIVE REGIONs that reaches coronal heights
and then either fades or returns into the CHROMOSPHERE along the
trajectory of ascent.

TWO-RIBBON FLARE. A FLARE that has developed as a pair of bright strands
(ribbons) on both sides of the main inversion ("neutral") line
of the magnetic field of the ACTIVE REGION.


U BURST. A fast radio burst spectrum of a FLARE. It has a U-shaped appear-
ance in an intensity-vs.-frequency plot.

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY (UHF). Those radio frequencies exceeding 300 MHz.

UMBRA. The dark core or cores (umbrae) in a SUNSPOT with PENUMBRA, or a
sunspot lacking penumbra.


UNSETTLED. With regard to geomagnetic levels, a descriptive word speci-
fically meaning that 7 < the Ap INDEX < 15.

VERY HIGH FREQUENCY (VHF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum
from 30 to 300 MHz.

VERY LOW FREQUENCY (VLF). That portion of the radio frequency spectrum from
3 to 30 kHz.

WHITE LIGHT (WL). Sunlight integrated over the visible portion of the spec-
trum (4000 - 7000 angstroms) so that all colors are blended to
appear white to the eye.

WHITE LIGHT FLARE. A major FLARE in which small parts become visible in
white light. Such flares are usually strong X-ray, radio, and
particle emitters.

WOLF NUMBER. An historic term for SUNSPOT NUMBER. In 1849, R. Wolf of
Zurich originated the general procedure for computing the sunspot

X-RAY BACKGROUND. A daily average background X-ray FLUX in the 1 to 8
angstrom range. It is a midday minimum designed to reduce the
effects of FLAREs.

X-RAY BURST. A temporary enhancement of the X-ray emission of the sun. The
time-intensity profile of soft X-ray bursts is similar to that of
the H-ALPHA profile of an associated FLARE.

X-RAY FLARE CLASS. Rank of a FLARE based on its X-ray energy output. Flares
are classified by the order of magnitude of the peak burst inten-
sity (I) measured at the earth in the 1 to 8 angstrom band as

Class (in Watt/sq. Meter)

B I < 10.0E-06

C 10.0E-06 <= I <= 10.0E-05

M 10.0E-05 <= I <= 10.0E-04

X I >= 10.0E-04

ZURICH SUNSPOT CLASSIFICATION. A sunspot classification system that has been
modified for SESC use.


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