Once again shattering the belief of the general populous that scientists know everything in their field, it turns out that astronomers don’t really have that good a concept about solar flares and exactly how they happen. Sure, the current model works to explain almost everything perfectly, but some events like superflares can’t be that easily explained.
And that might actually mean bad news for all life on the planet, as according to a new study from the Aarhus University in Denmark, a superflare might very well be generated by our sun. Previous theories suggested that it couldn’t really happen, but recent discoveries might in fact beg to differ.
Only observed on other stars, superflares are believed to form in the same way that regular solar flares form. And while solar flares do have some effects even on planets with such powerful protection as Earth (our magnetic field), if a superflare were to occur today it would cause major chaos around the world.
These solar ejections are ten thousand times more powerful than any solar flares detected to date, or likely the equivalent of a 100 billion megaton bomb. And the effects on our planet would be matching, as we’d most likely lose all satellites, the electric grid would go dark, and even our protective ozone layer would take serious damage.
But we might not be as unfamiliar with superflares as we think we are, as the planet could have been hit by one back in 1859. Known as the Carrington Event, the planet was hit either by a very powerful solar flare or a very weak superflare. Regardless, thanks to the limited technology we had back then, we weren’t affected all that much.
With the amount of technology we’re relying on today, a superflare would be disastrous. While because of our lack of technology back in the 18th century we couldn’t really measure the flare’s power, some of effects were definitely measured. Telegraph lines starting acting erratically, a bright aurora borealis was seen in unusual parts of the world, and the ozone layer was definitely damaged.
According to Christopher Karoff, study co-author,
The magnetic fields on the surface of stars with superflares are generally stronger than the magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun.This is exactly what we would expect, if superflares are formed in the same way as solar flares.
We certainly did not expect to find superflare stars with magnetic fields as weak as the magnetic fields on the Sun. This opens the possibility that the Sun could generate a superflare – a very frightening thought.
Image source: Message to Eagle