Solar beams might be more forceful than scientists had earlier estimated, the latest findings indicate. With the aid of an extremely advanced telescope, a group of investigators documented the most potent radiance ever emanated from the sun, achieving nearly 10 trillion electron volts, as disclosed in a freshly released investigation. Mehr Un Nisa, a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University, declared in an official statement that “the sun reveals more astonishments than we were aware of.” We thought we understood this heavenly body, but we were mistaken.
This extraordinarily robust illumination manifests as gamma rays, which carry the utmost energy in comparison to any other wave across the electromagnetic range. The researchers ascertained that the sun’s emissions contained a greater quantity of gamma rays than they initially anticipated, signifying that this radiance is exceptionally brilliant. “This recent finding is as thrilling as it is perplexing, for the HAWC team has demonstrated that the Sun radiates intensely in high-energy gamma rays — more luminous than anyone anticipated,” conveyed Brian Fields, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois who wasn’t part of the study, to Live Science via email. “Even though it’s our nearest and most recognizable cosmic companion, the Sun continues to unveil surprises to us.”
To evaluate the sun’s radiance, the scientists employed the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC), an assembly of 300 containers holding 220 tons (200 metric tons) of water each. Positioned between two inactive summits of the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, this observatory gauges energy pulses from gamma rays and cosmic rays—even when their illumination fails to touch Earth’s exterior. Upon colliding with air in our upper stratosphere, gamma rays burst into a cascade of subatomic fragments in an atmospheric burst, leaving a unique mark that HAWC perceives. Between 2015 and 2021, the report’s contributors gathered data from these atmospheric bursts and managed to secure the inaugural recording of solar gamma emission exceeding 1 trillion electron volts of energy, as stated in the document.
“After examining data spanning six years, there emerged this surplus of gamma rays,” Nisa remarked. “Upon first noticing it, we thought, ‘We surely botched this. The sun cannot be this luminous at these energy levels.’ The HAWC has facilitated researchers in pinpointing solar gamma emission at an intensity up to 10-fold greater than earlier readings, as cited by Quanta. Nevertheless, researchers remain uncertain regarding how these solar gamma rays attain such elevated energy stages or why they are found in such considerable quantities. “The core truth is that these solar gamma ray observations constitute a fresh dataset offering clues concerning solar and particle physics, and they present new challenges that require resolution,” a solar physicist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who didn’t participate in the investigation, conveyed to Live Science via email. “This is invariably beneficial for science, as resolved issues don’t propel us ahead.”