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The star V1355 Orionis is a hothead. It pops off all the time — giant eruptions of energy and particles. All of them are superflares — many times more powerful than any eruption ever seen from the Sun. And a few years ago, the star produced one of the most powerful superflares ever seen from any star.

V1355 is a binary — two stars locked in orbit around each other. One of the stars is similar to the Sun. But the other is bigger, heavier, brighter, and much more active.

That star spins quickly. The rapid rotation generates a powerful magnetic field. The lines of magnetic force tangle, then snap. When the lines reconnect, the star produces giant outbursts.

In December of 2020, it produced its biggest yet seen. The superflare blasted trillions of tons of material into space. And the cloud was moving at a couple of million miles per hour or faster — fast enough to escape the star and zip into interstellar space.

Such a flare would be bad news for any planets in orbit around the star. It could erode some of a planet’s atmosphere like a rock wall hit with a sandblaster. It could also zap the surface with X-rays and other high-energy radiation. So any planets in the system are likely to be lifeless — blasted by V1355 Orionis.

The system is about 400 light-years away, in Orion. The constellation is in the east and southeast at nightfall.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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