NASA’s Kepler space telescope has provided fresh insight on the colossal explosions that can afflict some stars.
(A superflare would be associated with very large starspots - much larger than those on the Sun.)
“These enormous releases of magnetic energy - known as superflares - could damage the atmosphere of a nearby orbiting planet, putting at risk any lifeforms that might reside there. Fortunately, Kepler shows superflares to be much less frequent on slow-rotating stars like our Sun. The new observations are reported in the journal Nature.”
“The US space agency telescope is currently staring at 100,000 stars in a patch of sky about 600 to 3,000 light-years from Earth. It is looking for tell-tale dips in light that might indicate orbiting planets have just moved across the face of those stars. But in making those observations, Kepler is also gathering information on the sudden brightening that might be associated with flares.”
“Hiroyuki Maehara from Kyoto University, Japan, and colleagues have now reviewed the data to compile the best statistics yet on the frequency and size of superflares. Kepler saw a total of 365 superflares during an observation period lasting 120 days. The numbers confirm that very few (only 0.2%) Sun-like stars experience monster flares.”
Astronomy news, recent research results, and pretty pictures from the media along with context, commentary, and explanations for folks who dig this sort of thing. Written by a quasi-professional astronomer affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.