Historic find! Largest-ever solar storm strike on Earth revealed- 10 times Stronger than the Carrington event

Tree ring data suggests that before the infamous Carrington event, a solar storm with 10 times the intensity struck the Earth. Find out when it happened and just how dangerous it was.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 13:25 IST
solar storm
The Earth was once hit by a solar storm so powerful it would put the Carrington event to shame. Know when it happened and how scientists know about it. (Pixabay)
solar storm
The Earth was once hit by a solar storm so powerful it would put the Carrington event to shame. Know when it happened and how scientists know about it. (Pixabay)

The Carrington event is the largest recorded solar storm in history. The solar storm was so powerful that it caused sparks and fires in telegraph machines, started forest fires and caused power grid failures. But a new study suggests that it was not the largest-ever solar storm to strike the Earth after all. It appears that centuries before, the Sun ejected a rapid burst of solar energy so powerful that the resultant solar storm was ten times more intense than the Carrington event. For years, scientists have wondered just how powerful a solar storm can be and this new revelation has created new worries. Read on to know more about this dangerous solar storm and how researchers were able to find out about it.

The data comes from a study published in the Nature journal where a group of Japanese researchers analysed tree ring data to find out about the existence of this solar storm. According to it, this particular solar event took place between 774–775 AD, which is roughly about 1,085 years before the Carrington event. The evidence was found in Cedar trees in Japan which all show a huge spike in carbon-14. What is truly interesting is the way these researchers confirmed that this spike in carbon - 14, which could have appeared due to any cosmic event, was actually from a solar storm.

Scientists discover a solar storm ten times stronger than the Carrington event

According to a report by Big Think, the researchers figured out that between 774-775, a large cosmic event took place which increased the carbon-14 concentration in trees by a staggering 12%. As carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of the stable carbon-12, it does not occur on our planet naturally. The high energy beams from solar storms, gamma bursts, supernovae explosions and other cosmic events usually form this particular isotope.

But this still does not confirm that out of all the possible cosmic events, solar storms were responsible for this. The researchers corroborated the data with ice-core data recovered from Antarctica and found out that during the same period radioactive beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 also saw a spike, suggesting that the event must have been caused by a strong energetic event that sent a rapid wave of high protons. Other historical data from China and England revealed that people witnessed auroral projections during that time. Since gamma rays and supernova explosions could not have contained such a high amount of protons and other cosmic events are not visible to the unaided eye, a solar storm strike to the Earth was the only obvious answer.

While this solar storm must have caused big forest fires, as technological advancement did not occur during that period, the overall effects must have been kept at a minimum. However, if a similar solar storm were to strike the Earth today, most of the satellites would be destroyed instantly, all communication systems on Earth including GPS, shortwave radio, mobile networks and internet would go down, power grids would fail and trees would spontaneously burst into flames causing forest fires.

Follow HT Tech for the latest tech news and reviews , also keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google News, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

First Published Date: 02 Jul, 09:14 IST