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Did you know? 'Superflares' from Sun could disrupt electronics, cause blackout on Earth


Washington, June 14: In the process of searching for planets orbiting around distant stars using the Kepler Space Telescope, NASA scientists found that the superflares erupted from the Sun could actually disrupt electronics across the globe which could cause widespread black outs and shorting out communication satellites in orbit.

Superflares are monstrous bursts of charged particles, solar energy and cosmic radiation from the surface of a star. These solar flares have the potential to wipe out entire satellite networks.

Did you know? Superflares from Sun could disrupt electronics, cause blackout on Earth

However, this shocking revelation, according to one of the researchers, is a "wake up call" for everyone on the planet.

Should you be worried?

Astronomers probing it observed that we could experience a superflare within the next 100 years or so, experts warn - a risk that calls for increased protection for electronic systems.

What are Solar flames?

Solar flares are brilliant flashes of light, often accompanied by the release of plasma, that come from the surface of a star and are are common occurrence on the Sun. If the Sun emitted a superflare, the high-energy radiation hitting the earth would disrupt electronics across the globe, cause widespread blackouts and short out communications satellites in orbit.

Until recently, researchers assumed that such explosions occurred mostly on stars that, unlike Earth's, were young and active.

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To investigate this, Dr Notsu and his colleagues from Japan, the US and the Netherlands studied superflares detected from 43 Sun-like stars using data from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft and New Mexico's Apache Point Observatory.

However, the study revealed that older stars like our Sun - which is currently somewhere around its 4.6 billionth birthday - can still produce superflares as well.

"Our study shows that superflares are rare events. But there is some possibility that we could experience such an event in the next 100 years or so," said Yuta Notsu, a researcher in CU Boulder.

Scientists first discovered this phenomenon from an unlikely source: the Kepler Space Telescope. The NASA spacecraft, launched in 2009, seeks out planets circling stars far from Earth.

However, it also found something odd about those stars themselves. In rare events, the light from distant stars seemed to get suddenly, and momentarily, brighter.

Researchers dubbed those humongous bursts of energy "superflares."

Notsu explained that normal-sized flares are common on the Sun. However, what the Kepler data was showing seemed to be much bigger, on the order of hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than the largest flare ever recorded with modern instruments on Earth.

(with PTI inputs)

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