Science Reporting

Rare solar superblasts could upset the world according to a new study

In a new study presented at the 234th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, a research group from the University of Colorado Boulder took into consideration the so-called “superflare,” i.e. particularly large and violent star flares that can prove to be a problem for any nearby planets. Fortunately, the Sun, from this point of view, is quite stable and the problem relating to solar superblasts has never really been taken into account by experts in relation to a possible “end of the world.”

At least until now. The new study focuses precisely on this possibility: these huge bursts of energy, so powerful that they can be seen (as far as the other stars are concerned) even from hundreds of light-years away, can actually occur even in older and “quieter” stars like our sun. Although such events may occur on this type of star more rarely, experts say that the danger is real and much more concrete than you think. The results of this research should be a wake-up call for life on our planet, as reported by Yuta Notsu, the lead author of the study.

If the Earth were to be on the trajectory of a radiation wave of a solar superflare, very serious events could happen: depending on the intensity of the blast and the position of the Earth at that time, ranging from the upheaval of electronics around the world, a situation that alone could lead us to a unique global crisis to much more serious events, probably unimaginable.

Notsu and his team used the data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia space probe and those from the Apache Point observatory in New Mexico. The data concerned superflare from 43 stars quite similar to our sun. Submitting this data to a rigorous statistical analysis, the researchers realized that “age matters”: younger stars tend to produce more superflare but older stars, like our sun, are not completely exempt from this behavior.

If for young stars we talk about superflare once a week on average, for stars like the Sun we talk about one superflare every thousand years. This means that most likely in the near future a superflare could hit the Earth. A classic superflare of average power that occurred 1000 years ago would not have been such a big problem but since today’s civilization relies on electronics and electricity just to survive, a superflare today or in the future would be a good problem.

In any case, according to the results of this study, it is the classic situation in which it is not a question of whether, but of when.