For the first time ever in a complete way, researchers have identified and characterized a massive stellar eruption from a star other than our Sun.
Recent observations reveal a powerful eruption in the atmosphere of the active star HR 9024.
An intense flash of X-rays marked the eruption followed by the emission of a giant bubble of plasma.
The work appears in an article in the latest issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.
The Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) rocketed about 2 quintillion pounds of the star’s plasma out into space. The corona is the outer atmosphere of a star.
Even though the CME was enormous it was still difficult to detect. From Earth, it looked like a slow and small mass followed by a bright stellar prominence off the star’s surface.
That CME mass is “about 10,000 times greater than the most massive CMEs launched into interplanetary space by the sun,” the researchers behind the paper said in a statement.
During the flare, very hot material (between 18 to 45 million degrees Fahrenheit) rose. Shortly after the material dropped with speeds between 225,000 to 900,000 miles per hour.
The results confirm that CMEs occur in magnetically active stars and are relevant to stellar physics. The detection also opens the opportunity to systematically study such dramatic events in stars other than the Sun.
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“The technique we used is based on monitoring the velocity of plasmas during a stellar flare,” said Costanza Argiroffi (University of Palermo in Italy and associate researcher at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy) who led the study.
“This is because, in analogy with the solar environment, it is expected that, during a flare, the plasma confined in the coronal loop where the flare takes place moves first upward, and then downwards reaching the lower layers of the stellar atmosphere. Moreover, there is also expected to be an additional motion, always directed upwards, due to the CME associated with the flare.”
Scientists detected CMEs through special equipment on the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a space telescope currently orbiting Earth.
Researchers now suspect that these eruptions explain why stars gradually lose both mass and momentum. But scientists need to do more observations before they jump to conclusions.