“Superflares” Would Be Disastrous to Earth

They happen on other stars, but the sun is unlikely to produce one.

Our sun has the potential to release huge solar flares, looping monsters of energy, light, and high speed particles that can reach 10 times the size of Earth. But that’s nothing compared to what it could do. Researchers publishing in The Astrophysical Journal Letters have been studying superflares on a star named KIC 9655129, observed by NASA’s Kepler mission. Superflares there operate on the same processes, when a sun’s magnetic fields cross over each other and reconnect, but on a much, much larger scale. The researchers note that if our sun produced a superflare, “our GPS and radio communication systems could be severely disrupted and there could be large scale power blackouts as a result of strong electrical currents being induced in power grids.” Don’t panic, the paper’s lead author says. Based on everything we know about solar activity, the conditions required for a superflare are very unlikely on the sun.