For those alive at the time, the only major noticeable effect of the massive solar storms would be that the northern lights would be visible at very low latitudes. These can linger in the atmosphere for a year or two, but when they reach the ground they can show up in tree rings and ice cores used to study the ancient climate.
Professor Raimund Muscheler, from Lund University in Sweden, said: "If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our hi-tech society".
By drilling deep into 100,000-year-old ice in Greenland, researchers found radioactive evidence of an "extreme solar event" that occurred around the year 660 BC - a period that coincides with the dissolution of the once-mighty Assyrian Empire, the construction of the Acropolis in Athens and the founding of Taoism in China. Solar storms originate from the surface of the Sun, home to a roiling magnetic field in constant flux.More news: NASA to open untouched moon samples for 1st time since Apollo missions
If a similar-sized storm were to strike our planet today, the consequences would be disastrous - radio signals and satellite communications disrupted, power grids disabled, and a whole host of modern day systems damaged, from banking to transportation. "These are the high energy particles directly hitting Earth and producing the particles we measure". Researchers are still a ways away from definitive estimates-but studying these prehistoric storms might be our best bet at forecasting future flare-ups.
"The first discovery of such an event was quite recent", Muscheler said. For now, it seems clear that "these enormous events are a recurring feature of the Sun", Muscheler told Charles Q. Choi at Live Science. The upshot is that these heavy storms are occurring more regularly than we thought they were, and can be more powerful than anything we've seen in the modern era, and that affects contingency planning.
According to the researchers, the finding has provided a stark warning that another event of this size could not be too far away, a report in The Independent said.More news: Cordarrelle Patterson rumors: Former Patriots wide receiver to sign with Chicago Bears
"Our highly interconnected technological society has become vulnerable to disturbances from the sun", he told Newsweek. During those events, humans would have been treated to a dazzling display of aurora.
Owens added, "This kind of work is vital to inform the engineering of space- and ground-based technologies in order that they are able to survive the worst-case space-weather scenario so that the sun doesn't catch us unprepared".More news: DUP To Vote Against Amended Brexit Deal