|A stellar flare over 10,000 times more powerful than the biggest solar flare on record was spotted by NASA’s Swift satellite, coming from a binary star system 60 light-years away.|
The solar system’s sun spewed a powerful X class solar flare last month, a phenomenon that could potentially affect radio communications and electrical systems on Earth. This was not nearly as powerful as the stellar flare observed coming from a binary star system that a satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spotted earlier this year.
On Sept. 30, the U.S. space agency revealed that its Swift satellite detected a remarkably powerful sequence of stellar flares on DG CVn on April 23 earlier this year. NASA described the phenomenon as the hottest, strongest and the longest lasting series of flares that were observed from a red dwarf star.
Scientists from the space agency said that the initial blast was a thousand times more powerful than the biggest one that they have on record. Smaller and weaker explosions also followed this initial blast for a period of 11 days.
Astrophysicist Stephen Drake from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said that they previously thought that major flares from red dwarfs do not last over a day, but the Swift satellite detected no fewer than seven powerful blasts that occurred for about two weeks.
Drake also said that the biggest flare they have ever observed from the sun took place in November 2003 and this was rated as X 45. The flare seen on DG CVn, however, is more than 10,000 times more powerful than the sun’s flare with a rating of approximately X 100,000.
“For about three minutes after the BAT trigger, the superflare’s X-ray brightness was greater than the combined luminosity of both stars at all wavelengths under normal conditions,” said Adam Kowalski, also from the Goddard Space Flight Center, who is conducting a study of the event. “Flares this large from red dwarfs are exceedingly rare.”
The superflare, which originated from one of the two stars in a binary system called DG Canum Venaticorum located approximately 60 light-years away, reached a temperature of 360 million degrees Fahrenheit at its peak, which is hotter than the center of the sun by more than 12 times.
The two stars of the DG Canum are both dim red dwarfs with size and mass about a third of the solar system’s sun. They also closely orbit each other which made it difficult for the Swift satellite to pinpoint which star was the source of the explosive superflare.