Evidence found of massive solar storm

Eloise Marshall
March 15, 2019

The upshot is that these heavy storms are occurring more regularly than we thought they were, and can be more powerful than anything we've seen in the modern era, and that affects contingency planning.

SPEs, also known as solar proton events, send tons of particles, such as high-energy protons, toward Earth, and when they hit our planet, they interact with Earth's atmosphere.

"A solar proton event of such magnitude occurring in modern times could result in severe disruption of satellite-based technologies, high frequency radio communication and space-based navigation systems", the scientists wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Although our planet's magnetic field keeps us blissfully unaware of it, the Earth is constantly being pelted with cosmic particles.

The sun can bombard Earth with explosions of highly energetic particles known as solar proton events. The oldest solar storm seems to have been the most powerful out of the three, and the effects of a similar event would be devastating if it would happen in our days. For example, in 1989, a solar outburst blacked out the entire Canadian province of Quebec within seconds, damaging transformers as far away as New Jersey, and almost shutting down USA power grids from the mid-Atlantic through the Pacific Northwest.

"Today, we have a lot of infrastructure that could be badly damaged, and we travel in air and space where we are much more exposed to high-energy radiation", senior study author Raimund Muscheler an environmental physicist at Lund University in Sweden, told Live Science. 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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"That's why we must increase society's protection again solar storms".

The team, who were studying ice nearly a third of a mile beneath the surface, found traces of the huge radiation blast which hit the earth during a storm in 660 BC, embedded in Greenland ice cores. They noted a spike of radioactive beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 about 2,610 years ago.

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.

The cores emanate from Greenland and carry ice devised over the past about 100,000 years. A new study has made a decision to analyze ice cores (samples of ice which are recovered from glaciers and zones where the ice is ancient) as they aimed to learn more about the phenomenon and how it can influence the world. "We need to be better prepared", concludes Muscheler.

"Our research suggests that the risks are now underestimated".

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