Scientists find evidence of an extreme solar 'tsunami' deep within Earth's ice

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Jan 29, 2022, 08:05 PM(IST)

Xray image of solar coronal holes can be this in the above image Photograph:( Twitter )

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Solar flares are intense, short-lived releases of energy. They show up as bright areas on the sun, producing high levels of radiation and charged particles that can intensify solar winds, electrically charged particles continuously spewing outward from the sun

Scientists have found evidence of an extreme solar 'tsunami' deep within the Earth's ice through analyses of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.

The study, conducted by a research team led by Lund University in Sweden, has been published in Nature Communications.

The sun, essentially a hot ball of hydrogen and helium, is an average-sized star that formed more than 4.5 billion years ago and is roughly halfway through its lifespan. Its diameter is about 864,000 miles (1.4 million km). Its surface temperature is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 degrees Celsius).

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When there is strong activity on the surface of the sun, more energy is released, something that can give rise to geomagnetic storms. This in turn can cause power outages and communication disturbances.

“We have studied drill cores from Greenland and Antarctica, and discovered traces of a massive solar storm that hit Earth during one of the sun's passive phases about 9,200 years ago”, says Raimund Muscheler, geology researcher at Lund University.

Solar flares are intense, short-lived releases of energy. They show up as bright areas on the sun, producing high levels of radiation and charged particles that can intensify solar winds, electrically charged particles continuously spewing outward from the sun.

The Earth’s magnetic field largely protects the planet from space weather. But massive solar flares can disrupt power grids, interfere with high-frequency airline and military communications, disrupt Global Positioning System signals and interrupt civilian communications, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tracks solar flares.

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The researchers scoured the drill cores for peaks of the radioactive isotopes beryllium-10 and chlorine-36. These are produced by high-energy cosmic particles that reach Earth, and can be preserved in ice and sediment.

“This is time consuming and expensive analytical work. Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised when we found such a peak, indicating a hitherto unknown giant solar storm in connection with low solar activity”, says Raimund Muscheler.

The strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, US space weather experts said.

The storm, a big cloud of charged particles flung from the Sun at about 4.5 million miles per hour (7.2 million km per hour), was spawned by a pair of solar flares, scientists said.

“These enormous storms are currently not sufficiently included in risk assessments. It is of the utmost importance to analyse what these events could mean for today's technology and how we can protect ourselves”, concludes Raimund Muscheler.

(With inputs from agencies)

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