Rare 'superflares' from Sun could disrupt Earth's communications
Washington DC: Superflares erupted from the Sun could disrupt electronics across the Earth, causing widespread black outs and shorting out communication satellites in orbit, scientists warn.
Astronomers probing the edges of the Milky Way have in recent years observed superflares — huge bursts of energy from stars that can be seen from hundreds of light years away.
Until recently, researchers assumed that such explosions occurred mostly on stars that, unlike Earth's, were young and active.
Scientists from University of Colorado (CU) Boulder in the US have found that superflares can occur on older, quieter stars like our own -- albeit more rarely, or about once every few thousand years.
If a superflare erupted from the sun, the Earth would likely sit in the path of a wave of high-energy radiation, researchers said.
Such a blast could disrupt electronics across the globe, causing widespread black outs and shorting out communication satellites in orbit.
"Our study shows that superflares are rare events. But there is some possibility that we could experience such an event in the next 100 years or so," said Yuta Notsu, a researcher in CU Boulder.
Scientists first discovered this phenomenon from an unlikely source: the Kepler Space Telescope. The NASA spacecraft, launched in 2009, seeks out planets circling stars far from Earth.
However, it also found something odd about those stars themselves. In rare events, the light from distant stars seemed to get suddenly, and momentarily, brighter.