The Sun Can Also Produce Superflares, New Research Revealed
The Sun Can Also Produce Superflares, New Research Revealed
'Superflares' of energy emitted by stars could disrupt communications and cause dangerous blackouts
13 June, 2019, 05:10
It was previously thought that older stars like our Sun - a healthy 4.6 billion years old - didn't really have the power to eject superflares, however a group of eggheads led by the University of Colorado Boulder in the United States this week showed this isn't the case.
Scientists dubbed these events "superflares" - and, as it remains unclear exactly how they are triggered, have wondered whether they ever take place on our local star, the Sun.
This is the terrifying prediction of astronomers probing the edges of the Milky Way for superflares - an explosive burst of energy from a star that can be seen from hundreds of light years away.
"Our study shows that superflares are rare events", said Notsu, a researcher in CU Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
The data used in the study come from NASA's Kepler space telescope, which has searched the sky for distant planets. However, older stars like the Sun - which is 4.6 billion years old - also produce them occassionally.
'When our Sun was young, it was very active because it rotated very fast and probably generated more powerful flares, ' said astronomer Yuta Notsu, who is a visiting researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Our Sun may be middle-aged but it still has the energy to expel superflares, a rare rush of energy, every few thousands of years that could destroy Earth's spacecraft and electronics, scientists warned. Unfortunately, there's not much we can do beyond hoping that if a superflare does occur, Earth isn't in its path. Statistics from their data show that most superflares do come from younger stars, which can flare about once a week. Astronomers assumed that this meant stars like the Sun have either grown out of their superflare phase or that such events were so rare that it wasn't really worth worrying about. But it also found something odd about those stars themselves. But older stars like the Sun could have superflares every few thousand years on average while younger stars have superflares every week or so.
Auroras associated with this event could be seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, telegraph system worldwide went haywire, and ice core records from Greenland indicate that the Earth's protective ozone layer was damaged by the energetic particles from the solar storm. But the Carrington Event didn't just produce pretty lights in the sky.
"If a superflare occurred 1,000 years ago, it was probably no big problem", Dr. Notsu said.
How big that problem will be is yet to be determined.
He notes that the radiation could disrupt electronics across the globe, causing widespread blackouts, and short out communications satellites in orbit. Still, that could give humans time to prepare, protecting electronics on the ground and in orbit from radiation in space.
"This topic should [start to be considered] seriously from now on", Notsu stressed.
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