Japanese Telescope Records Solar Superflare 16 Light-Years Away From Us

Being able to predict possible superflares may spare our electronics from them.
Utku Kucukduner

The vastness of the space holds many curious things unseen. Luckily for us, technology is advancing day-by-day so we get to see more of it with each day going by.

With the help of Kyoto University's Seimei telescope, which became operational in 2018, astronomers in the Graduate School of Science and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan detected 12 solar flares on AD Leonis, a red dwarf which is 16 light-years away from us. What's significant is that one of these flares had a magnitude 20 times bigger than what our yellow dwarf emits. 

Solar flares occur all the time on pretty much every star. but superflares are not a common occurrence. And the significant thing about it is explained by Kosuke Namekata with the following words: "On rare occasions, an extremely large superflare will occur. These result in massive magnetic storms, which when emitted from our sun can significantly affect the earth's technological infrastructure."

But another thing to note is that superflares do not happen that often. Thus gathering data on them is an important matter. That's why researchers at Kyoto set the controls for the heart of other suns, and their orbiting planets.

AD Leonis is a red dwarf, hence, its surface temperatures are lower than our sun's, which means, more solar flares occur on its surface. The team expected to see some large flares but were delighted to see an actual superflare on their first night of observations. Namekata expressed that this has given them lots of intriguing data.

During the superflare, the observed light coming from excited hydrogen atoms were approximately one order of magnitude higher than those of typical solar flares of our sun. Namekata pointed out "It's the first time this phenomenon has been reported, and it's thanks to the high precision of the Seimei Telescope."

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Another curious feat on the observations was that as the light from hydrogen atoms increased, it did not correlate with an increased brightness on the rest of the visible spectrum. Namekata added: "This was new for us as well because typical flare studies have observed the continuum of the light spectrum—the broad range of wavelengths—rather than energy coming from specific atoms" 

For a possible use Kazunari Shibata, lead of the study finalized saying, "More information on these fundamental stellar phenomena will help us predict superflares, and possibly mitigate magnetic storm damage here on earth."

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