SunFlare

WASHINGTON – Solar scientists are warning that Earth’s sun could produce a sudden killing “super flare” many times more powerful than previous flares, based on their observations of similar stars in a distant galaxy.

The concern arose because of data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which was reviewed by researchers at the University of Warwick in England. They observed a “super flare” on a distant binary star in the Milky Way galaxy.

The binary star system known as KIC9655129 had wave properties identical to those seen in flares produced by the Earth’s sun.

Anne-Marie Broomhall, co-author of the Warwick study, said the same physical processes are involved in both cases, suggesting that the researchers’ finding “supports the hypothesis that the sun is able to produce a potentially devastating super flare.”

Some super flares, researchers said, can be massively larger than the solar flares experienced on Earth. Even regular flares seen on Earth already have bursts of energy leaping out millions of kilometers from the sun’s surface, affecting electronics on Earth.

“Typical solar flares can have energies equivalent to 100 million megaton bombs, but a super flare on the sun could release energy equivalent to a billion-megaton bomb,” the researchers said in a prepared statement.

Findings of the researchers recently were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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“Stars very similar to the sun have been observed to produce enormous flares, called super flares,” according to the lead Warwick team researcher.

“To give us a better indication of whether the sun could produce a catastrophic super flare, we need to determine whether the same physical processes are responsible for both stellar super flares and solar flares.”

Chloe Pugh at Warwick’s Center for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, however, said that observations of activity on the Earth’s sun suggest a duplicate super flare isn’t that likely.

But she said that if the Earth’s sun were to produce a super flare and it headed toward Earth, it would be “disastrous for life on Earth.”

“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,” Pugh said. “Fortunately, the conditions needed for a super flare are extremely unlikely to occur on the sun, based on previous observations of solar activity.”

Nevertheless, Earth’s sun, now going through a solar storm maximum, called Cycle 24, is capable to spewing solar flares toward Earth, and damage can result if the sunspots spewing the flares are in direct alignment with the planet.

The solar flares create an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, effect that can wipe out electrical grids and communications systems and fry electronics.

Depending on their intensity solar flares could disrupt if not knock out the national electrical grid system, communications, banking and finance, food and water, petroleum delivery systems and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures that rely on the grid, electronics and automatic control systems on which an advanced technological society such as the United States depends.

NASA and the National Science Foundation estimate that a direct hit from the most intense X-flare could kill up to 90 percent of the U.S. population through starvation and disease in a matter of months.

In addition, they said it would knock out some 300 of some 2,000 large transformers that send electricity across the nation. It could take 10 years to replace them, since they are custom-made and no longer are made in the United States.

Large power transformers in the U.S. mostly were built between 1954 and 1978.

In effect, a direct hit from an X-flare would catapult survivors back to a 19th century existence.

Some solar flares can be more than 20 to 100 times the size of the Earth.

Experts say that Earth experienced the largest recorded direct solar flare in 1859, which is called the Carrington Event. At the time, the only pieces of electrical equipment were the telegraph and the first parts of the trans-Atlantic cable.

The direct hit from the solar flare burned the telegraph wires, creating fires and explosions. The effects felt round the world last for three days. At the time, the trans-Atlantic cable was just being laid but also had to replaced due to the impact of the EMP on the equipment.

Since then, countries have come to be dependent on the vulnerable electrical grid, electronic components and automated control systems to survive as a society.

Experts say that a Carrington-type EMP event occurs every 100 years. However, it’s been 154 years since that event, making Earth overdue for a similar event but with more catastrophic effects on critical infrastructures due to their dependency on electricity.

In addition to the 1859 Carrington event, other notable solar flare-documented EMP events have occurred.

In 1972, a major solar flare knocked out the long-distance phone communications across some states, including Illinois, according to NASA. The event caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables.

In 1989, a powerful solar flare set off a major power blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours. The flare disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Quebec generating station and even melted some power transformers in New Jersey.

In 2003, a solar flare initially measured at X28 overwhelmed a spacecraft sensor measuring it. Later analysis revealed that the flare had actually reached peak strength of X45. That solar storm was part of a string of some nine major flares that had occurred over a two-week period.

In July of 2012, Earth narrowly missed a large X-flare, although its effects affected communications for days and forced aircraft flying over the north pole to divert their route.

Get Michael Maloof’s stunning revelations about the possibility of an agrarian American where people life off the land – in the 21st century, in “A Nation Forsaken: EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe.”

 

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