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    Huge Flare Erupts From a Close By Star

    physics world

    A solar flare 100 times more powerful than one ever seen from our sun has erupted from a nearby star. The star Proxima Centauri is our sun’s closest neighbor at about four light-years away (or 25 trillion miles).

    Although this star made such a huge explosion, it is only about an eighth of the sun’s mass. It is also orbited by two planets, one of which could be like Earth.

    This extreme solar flare was witnessed by a worldwide team of astronomers through means of ground telescopes and space telescopes. The flare started near the star’s surface and ranks as one of the most violent seen anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy.

    “The star went from normal to 14,000 times brighter when seen in ultraviolet wavelengths over the span of a few seconds,” said Meredith MacGregor, study author and assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

    Flares like these occur when there is a shift in the magnetic field of the star. The electrons are accelerated to nearly the speed of light which interacts with charged plasma. This interaction leads to an eruption of varying wavelengths of energy, including radio waves and gamma rays.

    Now, if that went right over your head, we’re in the same boat. Basically, stars just explode with energy sometimes. When this happens, the planets surrounding the star feel its wrath.

    “Proxima Centauri is of similar age to the Sun, so it’s been blasting its planets with high energy flares for billions of years,” said Alycia Weinberger, study co-author and staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “Studying these extreme flares with multiple observatories lets us understand what its planets have endured and how they might have changed.”

    Scientists will continue to update us on the studies of solar flares. Keeping a close watch on stars like ours helps us study our own.


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