Scientists have discovered traces of a cosmic catastrophe that could happen again: mankind is not ready for it

Yulia PoteriankoNews
Solar eruption changed the structure of annual rings on Earth's Trees. Source: University of Queensland

Telescopes for observing the Universe have existed for only a few centuries, and for a long time they were very imperfect and did not allow us to look into the remote corners of space. That's why scientists are studying the history of the Universe using such seemingly strange sources as annual tree rings.

According to CNet, these rings have made it possible to establish that several significant cosmic cataclysms have occurred during the existence of our planet. Significant radiation emissions were brought to Earth from outside the atmosphere. And trees from around the world preserve traces of these catastrophes.

"These huge bursts of cosmic radiation, known as Miyake events, occur about once every thousand years, but what causes them is unclear," said Benjamin Pope, an Australian physicist at the University of Queensland. According to him, the main hypothesis is that it could be powerful solar flares.

Pope's group studied tree trunk sections more than a thousand years old to establish a link between the Miyake events and solar flares. The results of their research are published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

The scientists managed to date some events quite accurately. Thus, the disaster that affected the largest number of annual rings occurred in 774. Researchers suggest that it was more than 10 times more powerful than the Carrington event, a geomagnetic storm in 1859. The coronal mass ejection from the Sun was so powerful that when its streams reached the Earth, they literally burned telegraph wires and caused the northern lights to appear in southern latitudes, up to the Caribbean islands.

"We need to know more because if any of this happens today, it would destroy technology, including satellites, internet cables, power lines, and transformers," Pope said. The researcher described the potential impact on global infrastructure as "hard to imagine."

However, there is even worse news. A team of Australians used computer modeling to analyze the annual rings corresponding to six known Miyake events and concluded that these disasters were not caused by instantaneous huge solar flares. Changes in the annual rings indicate that the unfavorable conditions sometimes lasted even 1-2 years. "Instead of a single instantaneous explosion or flare, we may be observing a kind of astrophysical 'storm' or ejection," said undergraduate student Qingyuan Zhang, who developed software to analyze all available tree annual ring data.

Scientists fear that humanity may not be prepared for the next such solar radiation event that will last for so long. Meanwhile, Pope estimated the probability of such a catastrophe within the next decade at about 1%. He also said that scientists will need further research to find out what damage the infrastructure on Earth may suffer and how to predict the cataclysm in the future.

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