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Orion Nebula Throws Out Giant Flare

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Youngster in Orion Nebula throws out giant flare.

The brightest flash of radiation ever recorded from a young star has been spied accidentally by a new radio telescope1.

Twisting magnetic fields crackling violently on the star's surface caused the dramatic outburst. "The influence that such energetic flares might have on the formation of planets and their atmospheres may be tremendous," says Manuel Güdel, who studies the atmospheres of stars at the ETHZ Institute of Astronomy in Zurich, Switzerland.

The million-year-old star is in the Orion Nebula. In January this year it burned at five times its usual brightness, outshining its neighbours. This surprised researchers surveying the nebula with the Berkeley Illinois Maryland Association (BIMA) telescope array in Hat Creek, California. BIMA looks for wavelengths between 1 and 3 millimetres; most radio telescopes spot only centimetre waves.

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