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Could Our Sun Produce A Superflare? Wiping Out Technology And Earth’s Ability To Sustain Life

by onMarch 26, 2016
 

You May Have Heard Of A Solar Flares. Well This Is Like That…But Super.

Our sun produces normal solar flares on a regular basis. These are large flashes of light produced by the sun when magnetic energy built up in the solar atmosphere is released all at once. These flares are also what cause earths brilliant auroras when their energized particles come into contact with our magnetic field.

Astronomer Christoffer Karoff and a team of scientists recently published in Nature Communications, a study that investigated the likelihood of our sun producing not just a solar flare…but a superflare. We’ve seen these superflares happen on stars throughout the galaxy after discovering them during the Kepler mission four years ago. These flares release thousands of times more energy than a standard solar flare. The questions they’ve set out to answer is, what is the possibility that our sun will produce one (which could have a potentially detrimental impact on the world as we know it).

Using  China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), Christoffer and his team analyzed 5,648 solar-like stars, of which 48 had superflares. Of the super superflares they observed, most happened on stars with larger chromospheric emissions than the sun. However, some had activity levels that were comparable to our sun, suggesting that the common solar flares and superflares may have the same origin.

While uncommon, even normal solar flares can disrupt our lives here on earth Earth. The most notable and recent of these happened in September of the year 1859.  A solar storm hit earth that interfered with communications such as telegraphs when a dark spot on the sun suddenly lit up.

In todays world, a storm similar to that of 1859 would have a much more devastating impact as we rely so heavily on technology/radio communications and power. Just imagine if all of our computer and technology driven communications completely stopped working. It’s hard to fathom.

Now, imagine that a solar flare 10,000 times the power of the one noted in 1859…Because that’s what’s taking place on these other stars that Christoffer and his team have been studying. One of these superflares hitting out earth would not only completely wipe out all of our technology, but destroy the atmosphere in a way that would render earth unable to support life.

 

Now, back to the real question. Is our sun going to produce one of these superflares? Christoffer and his team say it’s unlikely, but not impossible. Our suns magnetic field is took weak to create such a powerful event, but they noted that 10% of the stars they studied had magnetic fields as strong or weaker than our suns. This means that it’s not completely impossible for our sun to create a superflare that is “quite frightening” according to Christoffer. So there you have it. Possible, yet unlikely. Now you know that if your phone stops working and then planes start falling out of the sky, it’s probably a superflare…(kidding! we really have no way of knowing what would happen)

References: Full Study From Christoffer Karoff – Red Orbit – NASA

 

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