AN “ENORMOUS” solar storm which hit Earth thousands of years ago has raised fears that a similar event could be just around the corner.
The ancient storm around 2,600 years ago was 1000 per cent stronger than any solar storm detected in the last 70 years —powerful enough to utterly devastate modern electronics.
Even small solar storms in modern times have been known to lead to widespread blackouts in Sweden and Canada.
And although boffins have previously warned about the dangers of solar storms blasting the planet, it has proved difficult to predict where and when they might strike.
To find out how regularly such celestial events happen, researchers from Lund University in Sweden examined ice cores and tree rings to unearth evidence of sun superstorms.
They discovered the planet was zapped with high-energy particles in 660BC and again in 775 and 994.
If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society.
Prof Raimund Muscheler
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.
Had such an event occurred in modern times, they would have wiped out power grids, GPS technology and computer networks.
Prof Raimund Muscheler, who was part of the research team, told The Independent: “We don’t know the statistics of how often these events occur — but what I would say is that we know it probably happens on a regular basis.
He added: “We must increase protection against solar storms.”
In 2012, a huge coronal mass ejection which could have decimated electronics missed the Earth by just nine days.
The event was comparable to the 1859 Carrington Event, in which telegraph operators suffered electric shocks and sparks exploded from pylons.
“If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society.”