The fact that we are here today is pure luck. The chances of Earth being habitable were astronomical, and still we are here. But the Universe outside of this planet we call home is still just as unforgiving, and anything going on in outer space could potentially lead to us all being wiped out. To keep in theme with the fragility of our existence, scientists have found the Sun capable of destroying life on Earth with a superflare.
- Normal solar flares contain the energy of 100 million megaton bombs
- A superflare can release the energy equivalent to over 100 billion megaton bombs
- Mars’ atmosphere was probably wiped out by a series of coronal mass ejections
- Powerful Solar flares are often accompanied by these coronal mass ejections
After analyzing a superflare emitted by KIC9655129, a star located 1500 light years from Earth, the team of researchers from the University of Warwick concluded that our own Sun is capable of such a massive release of energy.
The star was analyzed via the Kepler telescope, used by NASA to search for worlds similar to ours. The telescope works by picking up the fluctuations in luminosity caused by orbiting planets.
KIC9655129’s superflares were found to have a large number of similarities with the Sun’s periodic eruptions. These similarities led the researchers to conclude that our Sun would be totally capable of unleashing a superflare.
Solar flares are a common occurrence, as stars tend to periodically launch waves of plasma into outer space. Occasionally, these flares contain multiple waves superimposed on top of one another, and that is a superflare.
The bad news is that superflares are often accompanied by mass coronal ejections, massive explosions of plasma.
These ejections can cause serious damage to a planet’s atmosphere (as seen on Mars). However, that isn’t the problem that would affect Earth, as our atmosphere is thicker than Mars’ used to be.
The real issue would be the magnetic pulses that are part of the coronal mass ejections, as they could lead to dangerous geomagnetic storms that would interfere with all technology on Earth. This means that it would disrupt GPS systems, power grids, and even communications, thus wreaking havoc on our culture that is so dependent on technology.
However, the researchers behind the study claim that this would be a worst-case scenario, and that given the Sun’s behavior up until now, it is highly unlikely that it will unleash a superflare anytime in the near future.
That doesn’t negate its potential to do so, however.
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