Greenland Ice Cores Reveal Massive Solar Storm Hit Earth 2,700 Years Ago

Radioactive particles from huge solar storm found in Greenland

According to the researchers, it is the third known case of such a massive solar storm hitting Earth in historical times.

Luckily though, it was 660BC so that's where we were anyway.

Evidence of an enormous solar storm that struck the Earth around 2,610 years ago has been found in ice cores from Greenland. They said that depending on the form it took, a repeat could cripple communications.

"If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society", study co-author and Lund University geology professor Raimund Muscheler said in a statement. Our planet, the researchers add, would be ill-prepared in the likely event of another such cosmic bombardment.

Sometimes, highly energetic particles are produced by our Sun, and they get accelerated by the magnetic reconnection in solar flares or by coronal mass ejections, also known as shock waves.

The researchers behind the new, global study led by researchers from Lund University have used drilled samples of ice, or ice cores, to find clues about previous solar storms.

As for which is the biggest ever, it's a close call between the 774-775 AD and the 660 BCE events, as they're both similar in terms of magnitude from the records scientists have been able to gather from ice cores and tree rings (where carbon-14 is the isotope to look out for).

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"That's why we must increase society's protection against solar storms", he says.

For the past 70 years, researchers have studied these solar storms by direct instrumental observations, which has led to an understanding that they can pose a risk to the electrical grid, communication systems, satellites and air traffic. Two severe solar storms in modern times caused extensive power cuts in Quebec, Canada, in 1989 and Malmo, Sweden, in 2003. The cores come from Greenland and contain ice formed over the past 100,000 years. During the research, scientists found elevated levels of beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 isotopes embedded in the ice cores, and these radioactive atoms are usually considered the byproduct of solar storms. The material appears to be the radioactive remnants of a solar storm that battered the atmosphere.

Solar storms can be even more powerful than what our measurements so far have indicated - and we're still very unprepared.

On the basis of previous events, which have been identified between years 775 and 994, the scientists believe that these outbursts are probably a normal part of the Sun's cycle.

'Our research suggests that the risks are now underestimated.

The findings were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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