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Japan, U.S. disagree on possibility of solar apocalypse

32 Comments
By Jessica Ocheltree

If a superflare, which is an explosion up to millions or even a billion times more powerful than a typical solar flare, were to happen on our sun, it would release incredible amounts of electromagnetic energy that would likely fry the world’s all-important electrical grids and send society spiraling into chaos. A large enough one could even burn up our protective ozone layer and turn all life on Earth extra-crispy.

So, what are the chances of that happening? Are we all doomed!? Well, depends on who you ask, apparently.

In a recent edition of Nature magazine, researchers from Japan and America went head to head on the likelihood of a superflare happening here in our solar system. According to a group of researchers at Kyoto University, it’s a possibility. Meanwhile, astrophysicist at Louisiana State University responded in typical scientist fashion by saying it was theoretically improbable.

At the astronomical observation center attached to Kyoto University, Professor Hiroyuki Maehara and his colleagues looked at data collected from NASA’s Kepler space telescope and observed 83,000 stars over 120 days. Over that time period, they found evidence for 365 superflares coming from Sun-like stars.

The standard theory holds that superflares are caused by the interaction between a star and a closely orbiting gas giant, a so-called “hot Jupiter”. Because Earth has no such planets, it was thought that a massive solar flare would be impossible here.

The surprising discovery that Professor Maehara and his team made is that they could find no evidence for hot Jupiters around the Sun-like stars where superflares occurred, suggesting that there must be some other cause. By extension, they argue in the Nature article, a superflare may be possible from our sun.

In a rebuttal, Brad Schaefer argued that the a superflare could not happen without an interaction with a nearby object with a strong magnetic field, even if it is not a hot Jupiter. In 2000 years of observing the sky, there has been no record of a superflare happening on our sun, Schaefer says, so it’s not likely to happen.

Kazunori Shibata, another professor on the Kyoto team, responded that before tools for astronomical observation were invented, people may not have been able to observe a superflare with the naked eye. He also stated that the team is going to begin looking into other possible origins for superflare activity.

So it looks like we’re not in any imminent danger, but you may want to put on some extra sunscreen, just in case.

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun, Nature

© RocketNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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"Japan and America went head to head."

Why does the Japanese media look at everything through the prism of nationalism? These are scientists, who are individuals, who happen to live in different countries and have divergent opinions. No need to spin the story so that it sounds like a diplomatic row.

18 ( +17 / -0 )

A solar apocalypse damn sure can and will happen. There is no doubt about it.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

According to a group of researchers at Kyoto University, it’s a possibility. Meanwhile, astrophysicist at Louisiana State University responded in typical scientist fashion by saying it was theoretically improbable.

If it's "theoretically improbable", meaning, in theory, it's improbable, doesn't that mean the in reality is has a possibility of more than 0? Which means it is a possibility?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Probie: As Meatloaf said, "you took the words right outta my mouth". For me both statements boil down to the same thing.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well, for us on the ground, we might not need a superflare to get fried, We've already had flares that have knocked out communication and power, A nice little flare thousand of times bigger, but not yet a superflare, might do the trick. Not much use worrying abouut it though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Solar flares on the sun happen on a daily occurrence. If big enough they can sometimes affect the hardware on jets and choppers etc. Obviously it's not permanent and the hardware goes back to normal after a while... So I don't think we really have anything to worry about if a superflare occured. Unless of course you're flying internationally at the time ><

The idea of cellular phone networks being temporarily knocked out is interesting though. What will people do if they can't check their facebook!! ;)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In other words there is a snowballs chance in hell of it happening. However this will excite the Chicken Littles out there who are afraid of their own shaow and enjoy a good doomsday scenario

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

It seems the scientists disagree on the cause of these giant solar flares, not the possibility, which is small but non-zero.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Considering that our Sun is presently shifting from dipolar to quadrupolar configuration, there's an increased possibility of more significant solar flare activity, which have been observed in the past year. The possibility of a superflare occurring, though remote, is just that - a remote possibility. Nor would it be preventable. Were one to occur, nothing could be done about it anyway, so go about your life. No sense living as Chicken Little. If the sky falls, oh well!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Whatever, all these doom theories, meteorites, flares, supernovas, quasars etecetera, there isn't much i can do about it so i worry about things i can change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Only God has the power to end the world- He is the designer and creator of it.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

The Tohoku tsunami was also thought to be "theoretically improbable", and look where we are now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why does the Japanese media look at everything through the prism of nationalism? These are scientists, who are individuals, who happen to live in different countries and have divergent opinions. No need to spin the story so that it sounds like a diplomatic row.

They can't help it... they're collectivists.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Last night on NHK Prime there was extremely interesting documentary about research on the sun. Actually the flare activity in the moment is reduced and the expected peak is shifted - it will occur a year later or may be even 2 years later than usual. This might be precursor for a very cold period on Earth in not so distant future. Usually flare activity have peaks every 11 years but it was revealed on a bigger scale that after slowing down to 13 years it followed cold period. We are in low peak in the moment and should worry another 5-6 years at least (kidding)!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No No No! It is possible! Neutrons from a Super Flare would microwave the earths core causing massive tectonic plate shifts that would generate mega tsunamis all over the world! Sound familiar? LOL!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What the heck does this mean? --> "Because Earth has no such planets,"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

i agree with you

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It may NOT be this year, but in a further generation

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In 2000 years of observing the sky, there has been no record of a superflare happening on our sun, Schaefer says, so it’s not likely to happen.

Just because of a mere 2000 years of naked eye astronomical history? Does he understand astronomical time scales at all? Any astronomy student would snort at this!

Geez, did this guy previously do tsunami risk analysis for Tepco or what?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What the heck does this mean? --> "Because Earth has no such planets,"

I was a bit intrigued by this comment too, then I realised they were indeed correct - the Earth has no such planets.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are we doomed? Are they kidding?Read the latest reports on health or obituaries and see if we are doomed. If I were a billionaire I would worry.......so much good life and free money to leave. No use for it in the spirit body, or on any advanced civilization planet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What the heck does this mean? --> "Because Earth has no such planets,"

I think it's a mistake. Maybe it works if you add the word "nearby" at the end, or if you substitute "the Earth's sun" for "Earth."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Martians: "Never happen here...."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At this to our list of stuff to worry about.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bogva is correct. Though there was more flare activity until last autumn, sunspot activity is at the low point of the cycle which combined with the quadrupolar configuration doesn't bode well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In 2000 years of observing the sky, there has been no record of a superflare happening on our sun, Schaefer says, so it’s not likely to happen.

Because that, of course, is the timescale on which astronomical events unfold. If it hasn't happened since Jaysus came, it's not going to happen. I hope to hell this is a poor translation.

And I'm with REckless above: the term "because Earth has no such planets" is gibberish.

-1 ( +1 / -1 )

The possiblity DOES exist, but the odds of such an event happening are improbable. So both groups are 100% correct. It's Rocket News that has the problem with the difference between "improbable" and "impossible".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey scientists! I dont think you can do anything about it anyway so dont be fighting about it too much.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

****If in fact it happens and Japan's researchers are right?? What difference is it going to make if we are all crispy critters??

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"A large enough one could even burn up our protective ozone layer and turn all life on Earth extra-crispy."

There's an argument to make you laugh. "If it's so it won't matter, if it's not so it won't matter." So duct tape and plastic sheeting won't work this time?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So duct tape and plastic sheeting won't work this time?

In 2000 years of recorded history, there is no record of duct tape and plastic sheeting not working...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You say tomato and i say tomato...wait that makes no sense typed lol any way there is no way to prove it so isnt this just a debate club meeting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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