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Thread: Superflares on the Sun

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    Exclamation Superflares on the Sun

    Can our Sun produce superflares that would damage our technical civilization? The answer appears to be "yes".

    https://phys.org/news/2019-06-rare-s...ten-earth.html

    Rare 'superflares' could one day threaten Earth
    by Daniel Strain, University of Colorado at Boulder

    Original Paper:

    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/1...57/ab14e6/meta
    Do Kepler Superflare Stars Really Include Slowly Rotating Sun-like Stars?—Results Using APO 3.5 m Telescope Spectroscopic Observations and Gaia-DR2 Data

    QUOTE: ...the maximum superflare energy continuously decreases as the rotation period P rot increases. Superflares with energies [below] 5 × 10^34 erg occur on old, slowly rotating Sun-like stars (P rot ~ 25 days) approximately once every 2000–3000 yr, while young, rapidly rotating stars with P rot ~ a few days have superflares up to 10^36 erg.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Can our Sun produce superflares that would damage our technical civilization? The answer appears to be "yes".

    ...the maximum superflare energy continuously decreases as the rotation period P rot increases. Superflares with energies [below] 5 × 10^34 erg occur on old, slowly rotating Sun-like stars (P rot ~ 25 days) approximately once every 2000–3000 yr, while young, rapidly rotating stars with P rot ~ a few days have superflares up to 10^36 erg.
    The Carrington Flare (1859) is estimated to have been about 5 x 1032ergs. So a superflare is about 100x this big one. Super ouch! It's interesting that they state that the Sun can have one of these every couple thousand years but then it's stated that we might have one in one hundred years. This seems almost contradictory but I take it as a way to get needed attention, though many are talking about protection from solar flares in general, so it's not contradictory, after all.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    To me, predicting a superflare is pretty much random. You might be sure one is coming, but have no idea when.

    I've been reading papers on superflares for years, partly because I once planned to write about one occurring in an SF story. The literature has made significant changes of direction on the likelihood of a Solar superflare, from "nah" to "omg", starting about a decade or so ago. Research on Kappa-1 Ceti and similar Sunlike stars really got the ball rolling, and there are astro-archaeological studies suggesting superflare events from aurora sightings or radiocarbon upticks (e.g., 774-775 A.D.).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    To me, predicting a superflare is pretty much random. You might be sure one is coming, but have no idea when.

    I've been reading papers on superflares for years, partly because I once planned to write about one occurring in an SF story. The literature has made significant changes of direction on the likelihood of a Solar superflare, from "nah" to "omg", starting about a decade or so ago. Research on Kappa-1 Ceti and similar Sunlike stars really got the ball rolling, and there are astro-archaeological studies suggesting superflare events from aurora sightings or radiocarbon upticks (e.g., 774-775 A.D.).
    Yeah, I can see why it would potentially make an exciting story; one can find a lot of drama in dramatic events! [Or did Yogi say this already?]

    There was an odd statement in the first article claiming the Earth would likely be in the flare's path. That's seems to stretch since the Earth is such a small object and the Sun's equatorial plane is about 7 deg. from the ecliptic, which should diminish our chances a little less. You might want to be more inclined to make your star less inclined.
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    "If a superflare erupted from the sun, he said, Earth would likely sit in the path of a wave of high-energy radiation."

    Uh, yeah, but not sure whether the hyperbole was from the speaker or the science writer. Drama sells.

    The idea of a superflare, particularly a lasting one, has not been much explored in SF.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    The idea of a superflare, particularly a lasting one, has not been much explored in SF.
    Is that because a Bruce Willis can't stop the thing? Still, human struggle would be great enough to fit most Hollywood movies, no doubt. Bueno suerte. Oh, and if you can, slip in there that the Sun isn't yellow.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    One of the significant dangers during an enormous and prolonged solar event, based on the results of the Carrington Event, would be electrical charges building up in every long conductive power/phone line, railroad track, above and below ground metal pipes, and the like. This could result in planetwide fires in city and country due to conductive resistance, like a copper wire with too much current going through it. (IMHO, could be wrong, let me know.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    One of the significant dangers during an enormous and prolonged solar event, based on the results of the Carrington Event, would be electrical charges building up in every long conductive power/phone line, railroad track, above and below ground metal pipes, and the like. This could result in planetwide fires in city and country due to conductive resistance, like a copper wire with too much current going through it. (IMHO, could be wrong, let me know.)
    Not sure but charged particles would cause voltage spikes and semiconductors do not like those. Many common devices are not protected by spark gaps or snubbers so many would fail. Magnetic fields might induce high currents in long metal things especially loops. That seems to be the Carrington experience but there were no semiconductors then.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Not sure but charged particles would cause voltage spikes and semiconductors do not like those. Many common devices are not protected by spark gaps or snubbers so many would fail. Magnetic fields might induce high currents in long metal things especially loops. That seems to be the Carrington experience but there were no semiconductors then.
    In other words, planetwide electrical/electronic failures, and lots of fires. Fires everywhere. A new kind of disaster.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    It would most likely fry all of the orbiting satellites too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spacedude View Post
    It would most likely fry all of the orbiting satellites too.
    Yes, I think so. And the astronauts/cosmonauts as well.

    Here is a (short) list of articles I thought were valuable in researching the consequences of undergoing a super-Carrington Event in the near future.

    full article in HTML
    https://geoscienceletters.springerop...562-016-0037-4

    Geomagnetic storms: historical perspective to modern view
    Lakhina, Gurbax S.; Tsurutani, Bruce T.
    Geoscience Letters, Volume 3, article id.5, 11 pp. (12/2016)

    The history of geomagnetism is more than 400 years old. Geomagnetic storms as we know them were discovered about 210 years ago. There has been keen interest in understanding Sun-Earth connection events, such as solar flares, CMEs, and concomitant magnetic storms in recent times. Magnetic storms are the most important component of space weather effects on Earth. We give an overview of the historical aspects of geomagnetic storms and the progress made during the past two centuries. Super magnetic storms can cause life-threatening power outages and satellite damage, communication failures and navigational problems. The data for such super magnetic storms that occurred in the last 50 years during the space era is sparce. Research on historical geomagnetic storms can help to create a database for intense and super magnetic storms. New knowledge of interplanetary and solar causes of magnetic storms gained from spaceage observations will be used to review the super magnetic storm of September 1-2, 1859. We discuss the occurrence probability of such super magnetic storms, and the maximum possible intensity for the effects of a perfect ICME: extreme super magnetic storm, extreme magnetospheric compression, and extreme magnetospheric electric fields.

    ===

    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....9/2011EO430002

    Threat of severe space weather to the U.S. electrical grid explored at conference
    Showstack, Randy -- Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, Volume 92, Issue 43, pp. 374-375 (10/2011)

    The next solar maximum, expected to occur around May 2013, could also generate peak interest in space weather. However, major solar storms that could disrupt electrical grids in the United States and around the world may not necessarily overlap with solar activity peaks, and more efforts need to be made to understand and prepare for solar storms. Those were some of the messages at a 6 October conference entitled "Severe Space Weather Threats to the National Electric Grid" in Washington, D. C., which included speakers from the National Defense University, space weather experts, members of Congress, and presentations on recent exercises to better understand how space weather could affect a grid. Looking back at some historically severe storms---including events in 1859, 1921, and 1989---John Kappenman, principal consultant with Storm Analysis Consultants, Duluth, Minn., said it is just a matter of time before another severe event strikes the Earth. Kappenman told Eos the risk is 1-3% per year that "a big one" could hit our planet. "We are playing Russian roulette with the Sun," he said.

    ===

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.04701

    Reconnection fluxes in eruptive and confined flares and implications for superflares on the Sun
    Johannes Tschernitz, Astrid M. Veronig, Julia K. Thalmann, Jürgen Hinterreiter, Werner Pötzi (Submitted on 13 Dec 2017)

    We study the energy release process of a set of 51 flares (32 confined, 19 eruptive) ranging from GOES class B3 to X17. We use Hα filtergrams from Kanzelhöhe Observatory together with SDO HMI and SOHO MDI magnetograms to derive magnetic reconnection fluxes and rates. The flare reconnection flux is strongly correlated with the peak of the GOES 1-8 \AA\ soft X-ray flux (c=0.92, in log-log space), both for confined and eruptive flares. Confined flares of a certain GOES class exhibit smaller ribbon areas but larger magnetic flux densities in the flare ribbons (by a factor of 2). In the largest events, up to ≈ 50\%\ of the magnetic flux of the active region (AR) causing the flare is involved in the flare magnetic reconnection. These findings allow us to extrapolate toward the largest solar flares possible. A complex solar AR hosting a magnetic flux of 2⋅10 23 Mx , which is in line with the largest AR fluxes directly measured, is capable of producing an X80 flare, which corresponds to a bolometric energy of about 7 x 10^32 ergs. Using a magnetic flux estimate of 6 x 10^23 Mx for the largest solar AR observed, we find that flares of GOES class ≈ X500 could be produced (E bol ≈3 x 10^33 ergs). These estimates suggest that the present day's Sun is capable of producing flares and related space weather events that may be more than an order of magnitude stronger than have been observed to date.

    ===

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1811.02786

    Low-Latitude Aurorae during the Extreme Space Weather Events in 1859
    Hisashi Hayakawa, et al. (Submitted on 7 Nov 2018)

    The Carrington storm (September 1/2, 1859) is one of the largest magnetic storms ever observed and it has caused global auroral displays in low-latitude areas, together with a series of multiple magnetic storms during August 28 and September 4, 1859. In this study, we revisit contemporary auroral observation records to extract information on their elevation angle, color, and direction to investigate this stormy interval in detail. We first examine their equatorward boundary of "auroral emission with multiple colors" based on descriptions of elevation angle and color. We find that their locations were 36.5 deg ILAT on August 28/29 and 32.7 deg ILAT on September 1/2, suggesting that trapped electrons moved to, at least, L~1.55 and L~1.41, respectively. The equatorward boundary of "purely red emission" was likely located at 30.8 deg ILAT on September 1/2. If "purely red emission" was a stable auroral red arc, it would suggest that trapped protons moved to, at least, L~1.36. This reconstruction with observed auroral emission regions provides conservative estimations of magnetic storm intensities. We compare the auroral records with magnetic observations. We confirm that multiple magnetic storms occurred during this stormy interval, and that the equatorward expansion of the auroral oval is consistent with the timing of magnetic disturbances. It is possible that the August 28/29 interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) cleared out the interplanetary medium, making the ICMEs for the Carrington storm on September 1/2 more geoeffective.

    ===

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2016IAUS..320....3S

    Solar and stellar flares and their impact on planets
    Shibata, Kazunari
    Solar and Stellar Flares and their Effects on Planets, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, IAU Symposium, Volume 320, pp. 3-24 (2016)

    Recent observations of the Sun revealed that the solar atmosphere is full of flares and flare-like phenomena, which affect terrestrial environment and our civilization. It has been established that flares are caused by the release of magnetic energy through magnetic reconnection. Many stars show flares similar to solar flares, and such stellar flares especially in stars with fast rotation are much more energetic than solar flares. These are called superflares. The total energy of a solar flare is 10^29 - 10^32 erg, while that of a superflare is 10^33 - 10^38 erg. Recently, it was found that superflares (with 10^34 - 10^35 erg) occur on Sun-like stars with slow rotation with frequency once in 800 - 5000 years. This suggests the possibility of superflares on the Sun. We review recent development of solar and stellar flare research, and briefly discuss possible impacts of superflares on the Earth and exoplanets.

    ===

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1504.04755

    Solar extreme events
    Hugh S. Hudson (Submitted on 18 Apr 2015)

    Solar flares and CMEs have a broad range of magnitudes. This review discusses the possibility of "extreme events," defined as those with magnitudes greater than have been seen in the existing historical record. For most quantitative measures, this direct information does not extend more than a century and a half into the recent past. The magnitude distributions (occurrence frequencies) of solar events (flares/CMEs) typically decrease with the parameter measured or inferred (peak flux, mass, energy etc. Flare radiation fluxes tend to follow a power law slightly flatter than S −2 , where S represents a peak flux; solar particle events (SPEs) follow a still flatter power law up to a limiting magnitude, and then appear to roll over to a steeper distribution, which may take an exponential form or follow a broken power law. This inference comes from the terrestrial 14 C record and from the depth dependence of various radioisotope proxies in the lunar regolith and in meteorites. Recently major new observational results have impacted our use of the relatively limited historical record in new ways: the detection of actual events in the 14 C tree-ring records, and the systematic observations of flares and "superflares" by the Kepler spacecraft. I discuss how these new findings may affect our understanding of the distribution function expected for extreme solar events.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Jun-12 at 03:02 PM. Reason: remove dupllicated entries
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    And a last few. The effects of being exposed to a super-Carrington are fairly ghastly. The magnetic shield proposed at the end would be super-expensive, no appetite for it.

    ===

    https://www.swsc-journal.org/article...wsc150071.html
    PDF (<2 MB) https://www.swsc-journal.org/article...swsc150071.pdf

    Sfe: waiting for the big one

    Curto, Juan José; Castell, Josep; Del Moral, Ferran
    Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate, Volume 6, id.A23, 8 pp. (05/2016)

    Accurate measurements of the radiation delivered during the two largest solar flares ever observed are unavailable. In the case of the Carrington event (1858) the X-ray and UV radiation was not recorded, while in the case of the big flare which happened after the storm of 29-31 October 2003 we will call from now on as Halloween event (2003) the radiation saturated the X-ray radiometer. Despite many studies, a consensus regarding the real values of these events at the moment of maximum radiation has never been reached. In this paper, we used an alternative approach to try and determine these values. We estimated the values from the perturbations they produced in the Earth's magnetism - these are known as Solar Flare Effects (Sfe). Firstly, we established an empirical relationship between the variation in the radiation (cause) and its effect on the magnetism (consequence). Then, using the inverse function, we estimated the energy flux of both events. We found that both flares can actually be classified as being larger than X45. Finally, we also calculated the return period for a Carrington-like flare. Assuming that this event had an intensity of about X45 - according to our calculations - we estimated the return period to be 90 ± 60 years.

    ===

    complete paper in HTML
    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....2/2016SW001491

    Quantifying the daily economic impact of extreme space weather due to failure in electricity transmission infrastructure

    Oughton, Edward J.; Skelton, Andrew; Horne, Richard B.; Thomson, Alan W. P.; Gaunt, Charles T.
    Space Weather, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp. 65-83 (01/2017)

    Extreme space weather due to coronal mass ejections has the potential to cause considerable disruption to the global economy by damaging the transformers required to operate electricity transmission infrastructure. However, expert opinion is split between the potential outcome being one of a temporary regional blackout and of a more prolonged event. The temporary blackout scenario proposed by some is expected to last the length of the disturbance, with normal operations resuming after a couple of days. On the other hand, others have predicted widespread equipment damage with blackout scenarios lasting months. In this paper we explore the potential costs associated with failure in the electricity transmission infrastructure in the U.S. due to extreme space weather, focusing on daily economic loss. This provides insight into the direct and indirect economic consequences of how an extreme space weather event may affect domestic production, as well as other nations, via supply chain linkages. By exploring the sensitivity of the blackout zone, we show that on average the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49% of the total potential macroeconomic cost. Therefore, if indirect supply chain costs are not considered when undertaking cost-benefit analysis of space weather forecasting and mitigation investment, the total potential macroeconomic cost is not correctly represented. The paper contributes to our understanding of the economic impact of space weather, as well as making a number of key methodological contributions relevant for future work. Further economic impact assessment of this threat must consider multiday, multiregional events.

    ===

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.04241

    Risks for life on habitable planets from superflares of their host stars

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb (Submitted on 14 Aug 2017 (v1), last revised 16 Oct 2017 (this version, v3))

    We explore some of the ramifications arising from superflares on the evolutionary history of Earth, other planets in the Solar system, and exoplanets. We propose that the most powerful superflares can serve as plausible drivers of extinction events, and that their periodicity could correspond to certain patterns in the terrestrial fossil diversity record. On the other hand, weaker superflares may play a positive role in enabling the origin of life through the formation of key organic compounds. Superflares could also prove to be quite detrimental to the evolution of complex life on present-day Mars and exoplanets in the habitable zone of M- and K-dwarfs. We conclude that the risk posed by superflares has not been sufficiently appreciated, and that humanity might potentially witness a superflare event in the next ∼10^3 years leading to devastating economic and technological losses. In light of the many uncertainties and assumptions associated with our analysis, we recommend that these results should be viewed with due caution.

    ===

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1709.05348

    Impact and mitigation strategy for future solar flares
    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb (Submitted on 15 Sep 2017 (v1), last revised 19 Sep 2017 (this version, v2))

    It is widely established that extreme space weather events associated with solar flares are capable of causing widespread technological damage. We develop a simple mathematical model to assess the economic losses arising from these phenomena over time. We demonstrate that the economic damage is characterized by an initial period of power-law growth, followed by exponential amplification and eventual saturation. We outline a mitigation strategy to protect our planet by setting up a magnetic shield to deflect charged particles at the Lagrange point L1, and demonstrate that this approach appears to be realizable in terms of its basic physical parameters. We conclude our analysis by arguing that shielding strategies adopted by advanced civilizations will lead to technosignatures that are detectable by upcoming missions.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Jun-12 at 03:03 PM.
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    Hayakawa has written some fairly amazing studies that appear to show severe geomagnetic storms reported in Asian documents for many centuries past, indicating the Sun is more active than we believe.

    https://arxiv.org/search/physics?sea...=Hayakawa%2C+H
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    Missed one, which offers fine detail on a super-Carrington Event.

    full text in HTML
    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....2/2013GL058825

    An extreme coronal mass ejection and consequences for the magnetosphere and Earth
    Tsurutani, Bruce T.; Lakhina, Gurbax S.
    Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp. 287-292 (1/2014)

    A "perfect" interplanetary coronal mass ejection could create a magnetic storm with intensity up to the saturation limit (Dst ~ -2500 nT), a value greater than the Carrington storm. Many of the other space weather effects will not be limited by saturation effects, however. The interplanetary shock would arrive at Earth within ~12 h with a magnetosonic Mach number ~45. The shock impingement onto the magnetosphere will create a sudden impulse of ~234 nT, the magnetic pulse duration in the magnetosphere will be ~22 s with a dB/dt of ~30 nT s-1, and the magnetospheric electric field associated with the dB/dt ~1.9 V m-1, creating a new relativistic electron radiation belt. The magnetopause location of 4 RE from the Earth's surface will allow expose of orbiting satellites to extreme levels of flare and ICME shock-accelerated particle radiation. The results of our calculations are compared with current observational records. Comments are made concerning further data analysis and numerical modeling needed for the field of space weather.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Yes, I think so. And the astronauts/cosmonauts as well.
    Any idea how much time the nauters (astro, cosmo, etc.) would have to return to Earth if in LEO? The particle blast speed would be very high no doubt but they would have a little time, right?
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    Any idea how much time the nauters (astro, cosmo, etc.) would have to return to Earth if in LEO? The particle blast speed would be very high no doubt but they would have a little time, right?
    From: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....2/2013GL058825

    "The estimated upper limit of an ICME shock transit time from the Sun to the Earth is ~12.0 h under ideal conditions. The maximum shock speed at 1 AU will be ~3480 km s−1. The highest transit speed of an ICME shock on record was the August 1972 event [Vaisberg and Zastenker, 1976]. The time delay from flare onset to shock detection at 1 AU was ~14.6 h, giving an average speed of 2850 km s−1. The transit time of the Carrington event was ~17.5 h. If higher ICME speeds than assumed here are possible, then the time duration could be even shorter than 12 h. For example, if the Sun had flares with energies of 1026 or 1027 J, as has been shown to occur at solar‐type stars [Maehara et al., 2012], and the ICMEs were likewise more energetic, all of the above numbers can be scaled accordingly."

    Assume some time loss as data from solar observation spacecraft is evaluated, ground control figures out what to do, and everyone abandons ship as quickly as possible. I would guess they'd still have 6 hours to get down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    One of the significant dangers during an enormous and prolonged solar event, based on the results of the Carrington Event, would be electrical charges building up in every long conductive power/phone line, railroad track, above and below ground metal pipes, and the like. This could result in planetwide fires in city and country due to conductive resistance, like a copper wire with too much current going through it. (IMHO, could be wrong, let me know.)
    Occurs to me that metal fences, antenna towers, and the wiring inside buildings and vehicles might also be at risk during an extreme event. Not the same as an EMP, but it would be worse due to conductive materials sparking and overheating.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Assume some time loss as data from solar observation spacecraft is evaluated, ground control figures out what to do, and everyone abandons ship as quickly as possible. I would guess they'd still have 6 hours to get down.
    Thanks for the estimate. That's plenty of time if they are prepared.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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