A good while ago, scientists developed a scale to measure the energy output when our sun decides to blast out a solar flare. It looks like we’re gonna need a bigger scale.
In late April, NASA's Swift satellite spotted an enormous star flare originating from a system of two red dwarfs in the DG Canum Venaticorum (DG CVn) system. How enormous was the flare, you might ask? We scale them from C, M and X class — with X being the most powerful — and this flare was 10,000 times stronger than anything we’ve ever recorded from our sun. Whoa.
According to Space, the superflare's X-ray brightness outshone both stars' total luminosity in all wavelengths for a matter of minutes, as the eruption's temperature reached 360 million degrees Fahrenheit — approximately 13 times hotter than our sun's core. The blasts continued off and on for a full 11 days.
NASA astrophysicist Stephen Drake, at the Goddard Space Flight Center, put it into perspective:
“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 … 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.”
Researchers say it's possible our sun once blasted out uber-flares like this in the past, considering our sun is estimated to be 5 billion years old, while the uber-flares came from a star closer to 30 million years old.