Distant Star Caught Emitting Giant Flare and Plasma

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Researchers caught an explosion emitting energy 100,000 times more than the Sun on a distant star system.

Researchers from the University of Palermo in Italy said they clearly detected a coronal mass ejection on a star system about 455 light-years from Earth. Explosions, also known as solar flares, are only known to take place on the sun, and are released when magnetic energy accumulating on the sun is emitted in sudden bursts.

Coronal mass ejections, giant bubbles containing stellar material, usually follow a flare, and are capable of blasting up to 40 billion metric tons superheated plasma, or massive puffs of electrically charged particles. One such ejection was recorded in 2012, hurtling across space at a speed of up to 12.75 million km per hour. Astrophysicists spotted brighter than average flares on other stars, which could be at least 10,000 time more magnetically active that the flares detected on the sun.

Lead investigator, Costanza Argiroffi, an astrophysicist at the University of Palermo explains, “Stellar coronal mass ejections have been very elusive. In the last few decades, there were a few claims of stellar coronal mass ejection detection, but all were rather uncertain.” A giant yellow star known as HR 9024 with a mass nearly triple of the Earth’s was observed with the help of NASA’s Chandra space observatory. A shift in the frequency of and movement of the hot plasma on the HR 9024’s surface led the researchers to determine that a coronal mass ejection may be happening on the star. The researchers believe that material of about 1.2 million billion metric tons was ejected in addition to 5.2 trillion quadrillion joules of kinetic energy. This amounts to around 80 trillion times the energy released from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Argiroffi concludes that these findings “neatly agree with predictions based on flare modeling, proving that our understanding of stellar flares is really robust. That said, future research could uncover more stellar coronal mass ejections, allowing scientists to see how else these might differ from the ones produced by the sun.”

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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.