An international team of researchers led by Nagoya University have discovered evidence of an unexplained solar anomaly which occurred in the year the year 5480 BC. They came to this conclusion after studying the levels of a specific radiation-indicating carbon isotope in the rings of ancient petrified trees. This chemical evidence has revealed that some type of unprecedented event occurred that year which caused strong fluctuations in the amount of cosmic radiation absorbed by the trees.
Nagoya University researcher Fusa Miyake stated in a university press release that some combination of events in the Sun’s magnetic field and corona could have likely caused the radiation spikes:
We think that a change in the magnetic activity of the sun along with a series of strong solar bursts, or a very weak sun, may have caused the unusual tree ring data.
The mechanisms behind and causes of such a solar anomaly still remain a mystery. While the Sun’s radiation and other forms of cosmic radiation are usually absorbed by the Earth’s magnetosphere, or magnetic field, certain solar events or storms can cause ‘cracks’ or weak spots in Earth’s magnetic shield which could be behind the unusual levels of carbon isotopes found in the ancient tree rings.
According to the published data, this solar anomaly could reveal an unknown phase of the Sun’s regularly-occurring activity cycle:
The cause of this event is supposed to be an extremely weak sun, or a combination of successive strong solar bursts and variation of a solar magnetic activity [...] We propose the possible causes of this event are an unknown phase of grand solar minimum, or a combination of successive solar proton events and a normal grand solar minimum.
Solar activity has been paid increasing amounts of academic attention lately as our instruments for gathering data on the Sun’s goings-on have improved. Some researchers have predicted an upcoming solar minimum, or period of low activity, which could alter many different natural phenomena here on Earth. Just last week, a NASA report claimed solar activity might be responsible for recent mass deaths of marine life. Each new solar discovery is showing us just how little we know about the giant ball of burning gas in the sky that provides all our life and energy. That’s a comforting thought. Wait, no. The opposite of that.