Little Star Makes Big Mess

It is a good thing that we don't know of any planets circling a star called EV Lacertae.  If there are, they would be really unpleasant places.

NASA says the little star -- a so-called red dwarf -- has given off one of the brightest solar flares ever observed. The Swift satellite, an orbiting observatory with an X-ray telescope, caught it in the act on April 25, and artist Casey Reed has done the picture you see above, released today by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

EV Lacertae isn't much of a star.  It's about a third as massive as our Sun, and gives off about one percent as much light.  It's also believed to be young -- only a few hundred million years -- so it hasn't had much time to form a solar system.

Which is why this is comforting on a Monday.  "Here's a small, cool star that shot off a monster flare," said Rachel Osten of NASA and the University of Maryland in a statement.  "Flares like this would deplete the atmospheres of life-bearing planets, sterilizing their surfaces."

Our Sun gives off flares all the time -- and is the only source of flares brighter than the one from EV Lacertae.  But we're protected by the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field.  Perhaps more useful, EV Lacertae is 16 light-years away (about 90 trillion miles), while the Sun is 8 light-minutes.

Of course, there could be planets circling EV Lacertae, in which case this story would be much less pleasant.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, May 19, 2013.Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, May 19, 2013.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Photo
PHOTO: Iraqi Kurdish female fighter Haseba Nauzad, 24, and Yazidi female fighter Asema Dahir, 21, aim their weapon during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq, April 20, 2016.
Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
PHOTO: A man uses an electronic cigarette in this undated file photo.
Martina Paraninfi/Getty Images
PHOTO: President George H.W. Bush and his son President George W. Bush have no plans to endorse Donald Trump, their spokesman told ABC News.
Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage/Getty Images; Tom Pennington/Getty Images; David McNew/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: A wildfire moves towards the town of Anzac from Fort McMurray, Alberta., On May 4, 2016. Alberta declared a state of emergency Wednesday as crews frantically held back wind-whipped wildfires.
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/AP