2:05 PM - 2:25 PM
[PEM04-13] What is the Largest Flare that can Occur on the Sun?
Major solar eruptions such as X-class flares and very fast coronal mass ejections originate in active regions on the Sun. The energy that powers these events is believed to be stored as free magnetic energy (energy above the potential field state) prior to eruption. Therefore, the maximum free energy that can be stored in an active region bounds the largest possible eruption that can emanate from it. Using line-of-sight or vector magnetograms, the maximum energy that can be stored in a region can be estimated with the aid of the Aly-Sturrock theorem. We have investigated the active regions where the largest flares in the last 30 years have originated. We have found six cases where the maximum free energy is on the order of or greater than 1034 ergs. Our results suggest that 1034 erg solar flares cannot be ruled out based on magnetic energy storage.