Research: Researchers uncover additional evidence for massive solar storms

Sun solar corona

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. Such blasts of plasma and electromagnetic radiation from the Sun have the potential to seriously impact life on Earth, so it's important for us to understand them as much as we can.

In this case it was a solar proton event or SPE, a particularly intense type of solar storm where the released particles include high-energy protons.

These phenomena are called solar proton events (SPEs), and this threatens modern society in terms of navigation and communication systems, commercial aircraft operations, and space technologies.

"This was a high level of particle radiation, ten times more than has been observed in the last 70 years", Raimund Muscheler, of Lund University in Sweden, said. "If..."

Evidence of solar storms hitting Earth in the past can be found in ice cores-samples of ice that formed over the past 100,000 years. This sets off reactions that raise the production rate of radionuclides - unstable atoms with excess nuclear energy, which include carbon-14, beryllium-10, and chlorine-36.

We've seen SPEs in the past, affecting Canada in 1989 and Sweden in 2003. 774-775. The latter is the largest solar eruption known to date.

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A strong wave of high-energy particles should be able to destroy most of the electronic devices which are now in use, including primary navigation and communication systems. "These produce the geomagnetic storms".

According to the team, the cores recorded a very powerful solar storm occurring in 600 BCE.

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.

New research indicates that solar storms can be even more powerful than measurements have shown so far via direct observations.

Today that extra radiation would be potentially risky for astronauts on the ISS and passengers flying on planes at high altitude, besides threatening a lot of the modern technology we've come to rely on. The researchers confirmed that Earth was hit by two extreme solar storms more than 1,000 years ago. "Assets in space, including satellites and humans, need to be protected, and even systems on the ground are at risk from large solar events".

To learn more about SPEs, Lund University's Professor Raimund Muscheler and his colleagues from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Korea, the UAE, and the U.S. analyzed ice cores from Greenland.

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