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Ancient superflares on the Sun may repeat themselves: what consequences for Earth?

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The catastrophic impact of solar storms will affect planes, satellites and the Internet.

Scientists have learned about several solar superstorms that have shaken the Earth in the past by detecting an increase in the concentration of carbon-14 in tree rings. These events had a huge impact on our planet and if they repeat, then it will be a real disaster, according to earthsky.org

In 2012, scientists learned by examining tree rings that a solar superstorm reached Earth in 774-775 AD. But new research shows that similar emissions of solar energy also occurred in 5259 BC. and 7176 BC

According to scientists, such solar superflares could have been more in the past, and they do not happen so rarely. Therefore, the Earth may face another catastrophic event.

Carbon-14 and solar flares

The researchers analyzed tree rings in Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Russia and the United States. When energetic particles from a solar flare interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, they can produce carbon-14, which ultimately remains in the trees as a chemical fingerprint. One annual ring corresponds to one year of the tree’s life. Therefore, detecting an increase in the concentration of carbon-14 on the tree ring gives a very accurate date when the superflare occurred on the Sun.

To find out the exact date of solar superflares, the scientists were also helped by the detected increased concentrations of beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 found in ice cores. These elements are also evidence of the penetration of solar energy particles into the Earth.

According to Alexandra Bayliss of the University of Stirling in Scotland, over the past 12,000 years, there may be more strong solar superflares that have affected the Earth as research continues.

What happens if there is a solar superflare today?

Scientists say solar superflares, traces of which have been discovered in the past, will be devastating to the modern world. The impact will be catastrophic for aircraft, satellites, modern telecommunications and computer systems.

Such a solar superflare, which hits the Earth, could “destroy” the Internet, disable submarine cables and possibly destroy all electronic data, including banking information and other data stored on computers.

Known violent solar storms

One of the most famous solar storms in known history is the Carrington Event, a violent electromagnetic storm that hit the Earth in 1859. This event caused the failure of all telegraph systems, the highest technological achievement of the time, in Europe and North America. But there is not even data about this solar storm in the tree rings, that is, a strong concentration of carbon-14 was not found. This means that it was just a breeze compared to the real hurricane of solar superflares in ancient times, scientists say.

Relatively recent solar storms include the 1989 event. Back then, with only a tiny amount of energy that could be produced by a solar superflare, the storm nevertheless caused many hours of power outages in Quebec, Canada.

Take it easy, it’s not that bad

But scientists, based on data about our Sun, say that these types of stars do not have superflares very often. But they do happen, and there were more than three discovered in the last 12 thousand years. Researchers cannot answer if the solar superflare will occur, and if so, when to expect it.

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