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Powerful Megaflare from Small Star Stuns Scientists

A neighbouring red dwarf, earlier this year, released a chain of mega flares which kept astronomers reconsidering just what actually these dim and small stars are capable of. In the month of April this year the eruption of these powerful mega flares were detected by NASA's Swift satellite. These mega flares were released from Canum Venaticorum (DG CVn). Canum Venaticorum (DG CVn) is star system located about some 60 light years away from Earth. These eruptions were quite bigger than those of released by our sun. Solar flares released by our sun are classified in three categories, C (the weakest), M (Medium) and X the most powerful. An astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, named Stephen Drake, said in a statement “"The biggest flare we've ever seen from the sun occurred in November 2003 and is rated as X45. The flare on DG CVn, if viewed from a planet the same distance as Earth is from the sun, would have been roughly 10,000 times greater than this, with a rating of about X100,000."

Artist's concept showing DG CVn system releasing a series of mega flares on April 23, 2014. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

According to researchers the superflare's X-ray illumination overtook both stars' total luminosity in all wavelengths for few minutes. The temperature of these eruptions is estimated to be more than 360 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 13 times hotter than the core of our sun. But this surprise for astronomers wasn’t over yet and DG CVn released over 20 more mega flares for next almost 11 days.

This activity on the star system DG CVn has stunned the scientists. Drake at the presentation given to American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division, said “"We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks. This was a very complex event." Both stars in the DG CVn are about nearly one-third as massive as our mother star. The distance between these two stas of DG CVn is about 3 astronomical units. Due to this short distance, NASA's Swift satellite was unable to identify the star responsible for the mega flares. According to researchers, Flares are released when a star's warped magnetic fields re-join, and rapid rotation amps these fields up. Stars of DG CVn system are just 3o millions years old and our sun is about 5 billion years old. 

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