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Dec 08, 2015 12:18 PM EST

Sun Capable of 'Potentially Devastating Superflare', Though It's Unlikely


Our sun may be capable of a "potentially devastating superflare" that would severely harm the Earth's satellites vital for everyday uses like GPS, power grids, and more.

Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the new study found stellar flaring data suggesting the sun can produce a flare some 1,000 times stronger than previously thought.

"Our solar system is filled with plasma, or ionised gas, originating from the Sun as a result of the solar wind and other more violent solar eruptions, such as solar flares," study co-author Chloë Pugh, of the University of Warwick's Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, said in a press release. "Stars very similar to the Sun have been observed to produce enormous flares, called superflares. To give us a better indication of whether the Sun could produce a catastrophic superflare, we need to determine whether the same physical processes are responsible for both stellar superflares and solar flares."

According to, the researchers used the Kepler telescope to take a look at binary star known as KIC9655129 and compared it to our sun. The researchers observed the star, which sits about 1,500 light years from Earth, emitting a superflare.

While the sun is capable of such a superflare, the conditions required for it to take place are highly unlikely to occur.

"We then fitted a model to the flare light curve that described both the exponential decay phase and the two periodicities. The periods were found to be 78 minutes and 32 minutes respectively. The properties of the periodicities, such as their decay times, imply that the two periodicities are independent," study co-author Anne-Marie Broomhall, from the University of Warwick, said in the release. "The most plausible explanation for the presence of two independent periodicities is that the QPPs were caused by magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) oscillations, which are frequently observed in solar flares. This result is, therefore, an indication that the same physical processes are involved in both solar flares and stellar superflares. The latter finding supports the hypothesis that the Sun is able to produce a potentially devastating superflare."

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