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Innovative Japanese telescope spots red dwarf superflare in Leo

14 Jul 2020, 13:13 UTC
Innovative Japanese telescope spots red dwarf superflare in Leo
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An artist’s impression showing how a red dwarf superflare could affect a nearby Earth-like planet. Image: NAOJ
Kyoto University’s new 3.8-metre Seimei Telescope, featuring innovative petal-shaped mirror segments, has detected 12 stellar flares on the nearby red dwarf AD Leonis, including one superflare 20 times larger than those generated by Earth’s Sun.
“Solar flares are sudden explosions that emanate from the surfaces of stars, including our own Sun,” said Kosuke Namekata, first author of a paper in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. “On rare occasions, an extremely large superflare will occur. These result in massive magnetic storms, which when emitted from our Sun can affect the Earth’s technological infrastructure.”
Red dwarf stars like AD Leonis, located about 16 light years from Earth, are cooler and produce more flares than Sun-like stars, but the superflare seen by the Kyoto telescope was powerful by any such standards with 10 times more high-energy electrons than seen in typical flares.
“This is the first time this phenomenon has been reported, and it’s thanks to the high precision of the Seimei Telescope,” said Namekata.
The 3.8-metre Seimei Telescope. Image: Astronomical Observatory, Kyoto University
The team also noted flares in which light from excited ...

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