Traces of Radioactive Particles From Massive Solar Storm Discovered in Greenland Ice

Traces of Radioactive Particles From Massive Solar Storm Discovered in Greenland Ice

Traces of Radioactive Particles From Massive Solar Storm Discovered in Greenland Ice

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.

And one hitting Earth could have huge consequences as they have the potential to wipe out electronic systems on Earth, causing blackouts and stopping digital communication.

The only account of a "super storm" striking Earth comes from more than 150 years ago - when a Victorian scientist, Richard Carrington, described an eruption known as "the Carrington event".

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"If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society", says Raimund Muscheler, professor of geology at Lund University, Sweden. The discovery means that the worst-case scenarios used in risk planning for serious space weather events underestimate how powerful solar storms can be, he said. In the study, the team used two ice cores from Greenland and discovered that another giant solar storm took place around 660 BC.

The tell-tale signs were elevated levels of beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 isotopes embedded in the ice, both evidence of chemical reactions kicked off by the Sun's activity reaching through Earth's magnetic shield to the surface. Should a similar event hit us today, it could have a devastating impact, potentially knocking out global communication systems, satellites, electrical grids and air traffic systems.

We've seen SPEs in the past, affecting Canada in 1989 and Sweden in 2003. The latter was, to date, the biggest solar event on record. But this event almost 2,700 years ago appears to have been more than 10 times stronger than any storm we've detected in the last 70 years.

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And while enormous solar storms are a rare occurrence, they seem to occur periodically, the researchers explained.

In the year 660 BCE - the Iron Age in Europe and the Middle East - no one would have really noticed an extra blast of solar particles, unless they were particular keen scholars of aurora effects in the sky.

Presently an enlarged amount of research portrays that solar storm can be even more robust than measurements have portrayed till now through undeviating inspection. Also drawing on data recovered from the growth rings of ancient trees, the team pinpointed two further (and powerful) solar storms that took place in 775 and 994 CE. "I am sure these are recurring features of the sun and with a systematic search we will certainly find more", Muscheler told Newsweek. "Assets in space, including satellites and humans, need to be protected, and even systems on the ground are at risk from large solar events".

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