Our Sun could get angrier than we thought
Fresh research hasrevealed that powerful solar storms known as "superflares" are generated via the same process as common solar flares produced by our Sun. These superflares are capable of posing a significant threat to our advancedtechnology, and seriously harming Earth'sprotective ozone layer.
Earth's atmosphere isbombarded by charged particles from the Sun on a constant basis.Periodically, our star throws off what is known as a solar flare. Most of the time theonly visible effect of these solar storms are stunning aurora that manifest around Earth's higher latitudes. However, one event inmankind's recorded history highlighted the significance of the threatposed by powerful solar activity.
On Sept. 2, 1859, Earth'smagnetic field was struck with the first particles cast out by a titanic solar storm that had exploded from our Sun the previousday. The interference caused by the event threw the worldwidetelegraph network into disarray, and based on ice core samplesretrieved from Greenland, caused significant damage to Earth'sprotective ozone layer. The powerful storm is now referred to as theCarrington Event.
Should such an eruptionoccur today, its ability to interfere with our electronics and powersupplies would cause a far greater amount of damage owing to ourcomplete reliance on technology in almost every facet of our lives.
Four years ago theKepler Space Telescope discovered an entirely new breed of solaractivity – a class of solar storms known as superflares, that arebelieved to be on average 10,000 times more powerful than theCarrington Event of 1859.
The vastmajority of the 100,000 stars observed to experience theflare events as part of the study boast a magnetic fieldsignificantly stronger than our Sun. However, around 10 percent were on a par, or even hosted a magnetic field weaker than that of our star.
The international teamof astronomers made use of the Guo Shou Jing telescope located in the Hebei Province, China, in order to ascertain whether the powerful solar storms weregenerated via the same method as standard solar flares.
Common solar flaresmanifest themselves when a magnetic field on the surface of a starcollapses, releasing vast amounts of magnetic energy and stellarmaterial that goes on to interact with satellite bodies such as our home planet.
The Guo ShouJing telescope was able to harvest short ultraviolet light emissionsfrom the 100,000 stars involved in the study, in the space of a fewweeks. This particular lightwavelength allowed the team to observe the changes in the stars'magnetic fields as thesuperflares occurred. An analysis of the Guo Shou Jing data revealedthat the phenomena appeared to be created in via the same process asstandard solar flares.
Back on Earth, the teamdiscovered evidence of minor superflare events impacting our planetthrough an analysis of ancient tree rings. Tree rings dated aroundthe year AD 775 displayed evidence of the radioactive isotope 14Cpresent in our atmosphere. According to the researchers, this isotope formed as a result of cosmic ray particles or protons hitting outatmosphere, emanating from a minor superflare, around 10 – 100times larger than any solar flare in recorded history.
Based on observationsfrom the Guo Shou Jing telescope, and the terrestrial tree ringstudy, the team estimates that our Sun would experience onesuperflare incident per millennium.
A paper on the research has been publishedonline in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: Aarhus University