(ORDO NEWS) — In the history of our planet, there have been sudden colossal jumps in radiation levels for which there is no exact explanation.
Such jumps occurred about once every 1000 years. They are recorded as an increased content of radiocarbon in the growth rings of ancient trees.
Such bursts of radiation are called Miyake events, in honor of their first researcher. According to the main theory, the periodic sharp increase in the background radiation is caused by powerful solar flares, which are tens of times more powerful than the strongest flare ever recorded by mankind.
However, the latest study suggests that the origin of radiation bursts is most likely not related to the Sun. And most importantly, a radiation storm could happen again in the near future.
As you know, every year the trunks of temperate trees are overgrown with a new concentric ring. By the number of rings, you can determine the age of a tree, but not only.
Since trees absorb carbon, scientists can also know the amount of radiation in the atmosphere that was in a given period of time.
This is indicated by the amount of radioactive isotope carbon-14 in the wood. This isotope is produced by the collision of cosmic charged particles with atmospheric nitrogen.
So far, researchers have been able to detect six Miyake phenomena. This is evidenced by annual jumps in the concentration of carbon-14 and some other isotopes.
The earliest such jump took place in 7176 BC, and the latest in 774 and 993 AD. On average, the frequency of these events, as mentioned above, is approximately 1000 years.
In addition, scientists noticed smaller events, that is, slight increases in background radiation. But they received less attention.
In their study, the scientists compared data related to the accumulation of carbon-14 isotope by trees with an eleven-year cycle of solar activity. They assumed that the Miyake events coincided in time with peak solar activity.
This is logical if we assume that the increase in background radiation is caused by the Sun. But, as it turned out, the Miyake events are not related to the solar cycle.
Scientists also found that some events lasted one or even two years. Solar flares are known to be very short. As for the power of these phenomena, it is difficult to overestimate it.
According to scientists, the “storm” brought down as much energy on Earth as they form in the explosion of 10 billion 1-megaton atomic bombs.
Can a radiation burst happen again?
If radiation bursts are not associated with solar activity, then what could cause them? There are two versions of this.
According to one of them, the increase in the background radiation is caused by a supernova explosion. According to another version, these could be solar “superflares”.
However, at present, scientists have no evidence that stars like the Sun can produce flares large enough and long enough to cause Miyake events. However, situations where powerful stellar flares destroy exoplanets are not uncommon.
In historical records, scientists have found only two references to these events. One of the Anglo-Saxon chronicles tells of the aurora borealis after sunset. It was seen in 774 AD, that is, it coincides with the Miyake event. However, according to scientists, it could be an optical illusion called the “lunar ring”.
Also, a phenomenon similar to the aurora borealis is mentioned in the Chinese chronicle Jiutangshu. According to these data, the event took place in 775 AD. However, it is not confirmed by other chronicles.
But, whatever caused the burst of radiation, according to statistics, it can happen again in the next ten years with a probability of 1%.
The chances, though small, are very alarming. If the event repeats, humanity will plunge into the Stone Age – the Internet will stop working, power plants will fail, as a result of which the whole world will be left without light.
Of course, navigation satellites and other equipment will stop working. Indeed, according to scientists, the Miyake event that occurred in 774 was eighty times more powerful than the Carrington event.
Given the catastrophic consequences of a possible radiation storm, scientists plan to conduct additional studies soon to more accurately determine the timing of the events and the mixture of isotopes they produced. However, it is still unlikely that Miyake will be able to accurately predict the events.
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