Tracking space weather is no small matter. That’s because solar flares can wreak havoc on Earthly communication systems and could plunge us into darkness with no hope of checking Facebook or even turning on the lights.
Sure, the solar flares that we’ve seen so far haven’t really caused much trouble, except for the Carrington Event of Sept. 1859. Instead, most of us experience the aftermath of solar flares in the form of beautiful auroras.
But still, these eruptions from our unpredictable neighbor are nothing compared to the ‘superflares‘ we see around other stars in the Universe.
The Kepler mission first spotted superflares four years ago, but they do they have anything in common with those from our own Sun? Are they formed by the same mechanism as solar flares? And, if so, does that mean that the Sun is also capable of producing a superflare?
The short and simple answer: Yes, it’s likely.
The Universe is crowded with other stars, and some of these unleash superflare eruptions that can be up to 10,000 times larger than the Carrington Event, which caused auroras that could be seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii and telegraph systems across the globe to go haywire.
Solar flares occur when large magnetic fields on the Sun collapse and huge amounts of magnetic energy are released. The researchers believe that superflares are likely formed via the same mechanism as solar flares. However, our Sun’s magnetic field is rather weak compared to other stars.
Out of all the stars with superflares the researchers analyzed, around 10 percent had a magnetic field with a strength similar to or weaker than the Sun’s. Therefore, even though it is not very likely, it is not entirely impossible that the Sun could produce a superflare.
And that would be bad. Very VERY bad.
In the event the Sun did unleash a superflare directed at Earth, not only would electronic equipment be severely impacted, we would probably all be dead since a superflare would devastate our atmosphere, disrupting the planet’s ability to support life.
Based on their calculations and observations, the researchers said that, statistically speaking, the Sun should experience a small superflare every millennium.
Should we be worried?
Meh. There’s not much we could do about it anyway.
You can read my full article on STEAMRegister.com.