Potential Superflare Could Cause Technology Blackout On Earth

The sun could wipe out humanity within the next 100 years when it unleashes a huge “superflare”. The storm of deadly radiation threatens to take out all technology on Earth, potentially causing trillions in damage and sending the planet into chaos.

A solar flare shown erupting from the sun in 2002. Picture: NASA's SOHO satellite.

A solar flare shown erupting from the sun in 2002. Picture: NASA’s SOHO satellite.Source:AP

Scientists have repeatedly warned of the danger superflares pose to mankind, and in a new study predict one will hit us in the next century. “Our study shows that superflares are rare events,” lead expert Dr Yuta Notsu, from the University of Colorado Boulder, USA said. “But there is some possibility that we could experience such an event in the next 100 years or so.”

Superflares are massive bursts of energy from the surface of a star. They’re the high-powered version of the solar flare — regular and largely harmless bursts of solar energy that cause the Northern Lights. Previously, scientists thought our sun, which is old and inactive as far as stars go, couldn’t produce superflares.

But by looking at the solar activity of distant stars, researchers have now found our sun is capable of the huge energy bursts. Using Nasa’s Kepler Space Telescope, the team spotted older stars like our own pumping out solar flares hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than anything detected on Earth.

If a superflare erupted from the sun, our planet would likely sit in the path of a wave of high-energy radiation. Such a blast would pommel Earth’s magnetic field, disrupting electronics across the globe, causing widespread blackouts and shorting out communication satellites in orbit.

The study’s results should be a wake-up call for life on our planet, Dr Notsu said. “When our sun was young, it was very active because it rotated very fast and probably generated more powerful flares,” he added. “But we didn’t know if such large flares occur on the modern sun with very low frequency.” A number of scientists have warned that humanity needs to better prepare itself for a potential major solar storm.

Scientists now believe the sun is capable of producing a superflare. Picture: NASA and Scienceworks.

Scientists now believe the sun is capable of producing a superflare. Picture: NASA and Scienceworks.Source:Supplied

Insurer Lloyd’s of London reckons the damage from such an event, lasting between one and two years, would range between $600 billion and $2.6 trillion. Even small solar storms in modern times have been known to lead to widespread blackouts in Sweden and Canada. In 2012, a huge coronal mass ejection which could have decimated electronics missed the Earth by just nine days.

The event was comparable to the 1859 Carrington Event, in which telegraph operators suffered electric shocks and sparks exploded from pylons. The new study was published in The Astrophysical Journal. Devastating space storms could strike Earth at any time and we’d only have 15 minutes’ notice.

Stephen Hawking once said the Earth would become a sizzling fireball by 2600 and humanity would become extinct. This story was first published on The Sun

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