Thursday, 14 June 2012

Superflares found on Sun-like stars

Scientists previously theorised a close-flying Jupiter-sized planet would be needed to ground a super-flaring stars' magnetic fits. The finding, published in the journal Nature, culled from 120 days of observations of 83,000 stars, is the first to detail how often and how energetic flares on other stars can be. For the size flares our Sun experiences, magnetic reconnection occurs within the Sun itself, with one twisted magnetic field snapping and then linking up to another - releasing energy in the process as a solar flare. Kepler, whose prime mission is to look for planets transiting the face of their parent stars, should have found big, close-by planets (so-called "hot-Jupiters") circling about 10 per cent of the superflaring stars. Instead the team, led by Kyoto University astronomer Hiroyuki Maehara, found none Scientists have found superflares more than 1 million times more powerful than flares generated by the Sun occurring on stars being studied by NASA's Kepler space telescope. But the 365 superflares found by scientists crunching Kepler data need another explanation, says astrophysicist Bradley Schaefer, of Louisiana State University. The discovery, however, raises a question about how the massive outbursts, believed to be caused by complex magnetic interactions, can physically occur.

"Maehara's point that the 365 superflares don't show hot-Jupiters is a pretty strong argument against the hot-Jupiter theory," says Schaefer. "No one has proposed any alternative."

Maehara thinks they could be caused by starspots much larger than any sunspot found on the sun.

"However it is not well understood why and how such large starspots are formed on solar-type stars," he says.

"This very much is a mystery and a challenge for classic astrophysics," says Schaefer.

Scientists don't believe our sun has ever generated such a superflare. If one had, it likely would have triggered enough chemical change in the atmosphere to set off a mass-extinction of life on Earth. The only mass extinctions in geologic record have been tied to asteroid strikes, volcanic activity and related climatic change.

Ironically, a superflaring star may be a good place to look for habitable planets, Schaefer adds.

"Superflares might provide the high-energy radiation required to create organic molecules, so perhaps superflare systems are a good place to look for alien life that has evolved to avoid the effects of the huge flares," he says.

1 comment:

  1. Well, as for other alternatives to a hot-Jupiter, there is W Thornhill's electric universe theory. And as for a change in the atmosphere of Earth due to super-flare, is our solar system not deficient in several elements and excessive in others? If super-flares create life they can eliminate it also.

    A better theory is one of a controlled electromagnetic wrap. A controlled compression and expansion of the heliosphere.