An artistic rendering of a stellar flare in a distant galaxy.
Astronomers may have spotted a distant star spitting out a giant solar flare that packed 100,000 times more energy than a as seen from the Earth, the sun, a new study found.
The researchers have also said that they’ve made the first clear detection of a distant star radiates a kind of eruption known as a coronal mass ejection that were until now only seen from the sun. Such explosions can wreak havoc on all surrounding worlds, lead author Costanza Argiroffi, an astrophysicist at the University of Palermo in Italy, told Space.com.
Scientists are most familiar with the dynamics of our own sun. Solar flares are the largest explosions in the earthly solar system. Our star let these intense bursts of radiation when the magnetic energy that is built up in the sun gets suddenly released. The explosion can endanger satellites or astronauts in orbit.
Related: Monster Solar Flare Marks the 7th Powerful Sun Storm in 7 Days
Often solar flares are accompanied by the release of large bubbles of stellar material, and these are the coronal mass ejections. These bursts are the most powerful magnetic events in the Earth, the sun, rays of up to 44 billion tons (40 billion tons) of hot plasma, or clouds of electrically charged particles. One of the fastest recorded coronal mass ejections, discovered in 2012, reed in the space to 7.92 million mph (12.75 million km/h).
Scientists suspect that both phenomena occur on other stars. Astronomers have spotted the short peaks in the average stellar brightness that they believe to represent torches. Researchers have also discovered that other stars would prove to be 10,000 times more magnetically active than the sun, suggesting that they could burst of coronal mass ejections many times stronger than that, as seen from the sun.
“Stellar coronal mass ejections are believed to be important for stellar physics,” lead author Costanza Argiroffi, an astrophysicist at the University of Palermo in Italy, told Space.com. “Stellar coronal mass ejections can cause large amounts of the mass and the kinetic energy loss during the stellar life. In addition, stellar coronal mass ejections can also affect exoplanetary systems.”
However, until now, astronomers had not detected a coronal mass-ejections from the other star, because researchers were not able to resolve all of the details on the surface of stars.
“Stellar coronal mass ejections are very elusive,” Argiroffi says. “In the last few decades, there were a few claims of stellar coronal mass ejection detection, but all were rather uncertain.” Now Argiroffi and his colleagues have said that they have stronger evidence for such a detection.
The researchers focused on HR 9024, a yellow giant star almost three times the mass of the Earth is the sun located about 455 light-years from our planet. With the help of NASA’s Chandra space telescope, they analyzed X-rays of the star’s plasma, that was a very hot 7.2 million degrees Fahrenheit (4 million degrees Celsius).
The scientists found that the light of HR 9024 is frequency-shifted in a way that suggested hot plasma and down in the direction of the star’s surface. (That would change the register in the X-ray data, in a phenomenon similar to the Doppler-effect, that causes an ambulance siren to sound higher in tone as the vehicle drives toward you and lower pitched beep as it moves away.) The researchers suggest that this evidence of a coronal mass ejection from the star.
The researchers estimate that the coronal mass ejection blasted away approximately 1.3 million billion tons (1.2 million billion tons) of material, a little less than a quarter of the average mass of the atmosphere of the Earth. The team suggested that the emission released about 5.2 trillion quadrillion joules of kinetic energy, or about 80 trillion times the amount of energy released from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and about 100,000 times more energy than is seen from the strongest known flares of our sun.
“The detected coronal mass ejection is 10,000 times more mass than the most extreme solar coronal mass ejections, but not as fast as expected,” Argiroffi says. “Solar coronal mass ejections can be ejected with speeds of up to a thousand kilometres per second [2.2 million mph], while the detected coronal mass ejection has a speed of 90 kilometers per second [200,000 km / h].” That relatively low speed suggests that the strong magnetic field of young, active stars such as HR 9024 are not as effective as the sun on the acceleration of coronal mass ejections, Argiroffi said.
But in general, all these detected qualities “neatly match the predictions on the basis of flare modeling, showing that our understanding of stellar flares is really robust,” Argiroffi says. That said, future research would uncover more stellar coronal mass ejections, allowing scientists to see how else they may differ from the ones produced by the sun, he remarked.
The scientists detailed their findings online May 27 in the journal Nature Astronomy.
- Achoo! Solar Sneeze Can Light Up the Atmosphere of the Earth (Video)
- Beautiful Animation of a solar Flare Captures Her Life from Birth to Death
- Solar Blast! Sun Surprises with 3 Powerful Torches (Video)
Original article on Space.com.