While observing the star system, located dozens of light-years from Earth, astronomers- for the first time- observed a star called EK Draconis, ejecting a massive burst of energy and charged particles. This cosmic firework show was extremely powerful than anything scientists have seen in our solar system.
The study was conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder, collaborating with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, University of Hyogo, Kyoto University, Kobe University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo, and Doshisha University.
Scientists, through this study, explored a stellar phenomenon called a ‘coronal mass ejection’ or solar storm. This ejection consists of extremely hot particles called plasma that moves throughout the space at millions of miles per hour. Sometimes, they affect Earth and satellites in orbit.
According to this new study, these coronal mass ejections can get a lot worse than thought. Originated from the sun, they can warn just how dangerous the weather in space can be.
Astrophysicist Yuta Notsu of the University of Colorado Boulder said, “The coronal mass ejections often come right after starlets lose a flare or a sudden and bright burst of radiation that can extend far out into space.”
In 2019, scientists showed that young sun-like stars around the galaxy experiences frequent several time powerful superflares. Scientists wondered if superflares could lead to an equally super coronal mass ejection?
Notsu said, “Superflares are much bigger than the flares that we see from the sun. So we suspect that they would also produce much bigger mass ejections. But until recently, that was just conjecture.”
To find out their answers, scientists focused on EK Draconis. EK Draconis is a curious solar-type star the same size as our sun. Almost just 100 million years old, it’s a relative youngster in a cosmic sense.
Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Kyoto University’s SEIMEI Telescope, they observed the star for 32 nights in winter and spring 2020. On April 5, they noticed a superflare eruption that was a big one.
About 30 minutes later, the team observed what appeared to be a coronal mass ejection flying away from the star’s surface. Scientists could catch only the first step in that ejection’s life, called the “filament eruption” phase. But even so, it was a monster, moving at a top speed of roughly 1 million miles per hour.
Not noted that “huge mass ejections may have been much more common in the solar system’s early years. Gigantic coronal mass ejections, in other words, could have helped to shape planets like Earth and Mars into what they look like today.”
“The atmosphere of present-day Mars is very thin compared to Earth’s. In the past, we thought Mars had a much thicker atmosphere. Coronal mass ejections may help us to understand what happened to the planet over billions of years.”
- Namekata, K., Maehara, H., Honda, S. et al. Probable detection of an eruptive filament from a superflare on a solar-type star. Nat Astron (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01532-8