And while enormous solar storms are a rare occurrence, they seem to occur periodically, the researchers explained.
The only account of a "super storm" striking Earth comes from more than 150 years ago - when a Victorian scientist, Richard Carrington, described an eruption known as "the Carrington event".
These phenomena, called solar proton events (SPEs), represent a threat to modern society in terms of communication and navigation systems, space technologies, and commercial aircraft operations. Our planet faces the onslaught of cosmic particles. Solar storms originate from the surface of the Sun, home to a roiling magnetic field in constant flux.
Now, new research shows that we've underestimated the hazards posed by solar storms - the authors report that we've underestimated just how powerful they can become. But this study shows that the sun is capable of producing far more energetic-and possibly more damaging-events than we've witnessed in the last 50 years. But this event almost 2,700 years ago appears to have been more than 10 times stronger than any storm we've detected in the last 70 years.
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. This interaction causes an increase in the rate of chlorine-36, carbon-14, and beryllium-10, Gizmodo reported.
Professor Raimund Muscheler from Lund University and his colleagues from Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the United States, and France analyzed ice cores from Greenland in order to learn more about SPEs. Spikes in beryllium and chlorine isotopes indicated that, during the seventh century BCE, the world was rocked by a storm that might be among the strongest ever recorded.
Researchers have also previously found similar events dated to 774-775 AD and 993-994 AD.
Since evidence has pointed to three massive solar storms taking place in the last 3,000 years, the scientists plan to explore more ice core samples to better understand these odd phenomenons. A new study has chose to analyze ice cores (samples of ice which are recovered from glaciers and zones where the ice is ancient) as they aimed to learn more about the phenomenon and how it can influence the world.
The discovery means that in the worst-case scenarios, the risk planning for major space-related weather events had failed to estimate the scale of destruction these powerful solar storms can unleash.
To learn more about SPEs, Lund University's Professor Raimund Muscheler and his colleagues from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Korea, the UAE, and the USA analyzed ice cores from Greenland. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.