The solar storm that occurred 2,700 years ago was documented in Assyrian tablets

A group of experts deciphered ancient Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions that described a 2,700-year-old solar storm detected by Assyrian astronomers at the time. Three big solar storms are described on old Assyrian cuneiform tablets, according to scientists at the Japanese University of Tsukuba.

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Extremely energetic objects permeate the universe. But close to home, the sun produces its own dazzling lightshow, producing the largest explosions in our solar system and driving powerful solar storms. When solar activity contorts and realigns the sun’s magnetic fields, vast amounts of energy can be driven into space. This phenomenon can create a sudden flash of light—a solar flare. © Image Credit: Flickr/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The ancient tablets speak about a strange crimson light in the sky. After confirming the data, the researchers discovered solar storms that most likely happened between 679 and 655 BC. The scientific investigation also included a review of recorded literature as well as an analysis of carbon-14 radioisotopes from tree rings.

They were able to establish that these solar magnetic storms happened at that time by doing so. Around 1610, astronomers began using telescopes to observe sunspots. These are black areas on the solar surface that are caused by solar flares, which are abrupt explosions that hurl massive amounts of energy into space.

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can generate geomagnetic storms if they are directed towards Earth. Particles from the Sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere as they pass through, interfering with communication systems, satellites, and energy networks.

“These space weather phenomena represent a huge threat to a modern society because of their increasing reliance on electronic infrastructure,” said Hisashi Hayakawa, study head at the University of Osaka in Japan. By examining radiocarbon in tree rings around 775, 993, and 994 BC, scientists have been able to pinpoint a sequence of space weather occurrences before 1610.

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Impact of a gigantic solar flare on the Earth, causing destruction. © Image Credit: Philcold | Licensed from Dreamstime.Com (Editorial/Commercial Use Stock Photo)

Hayakawa’s team concentrated on three incidents that appear to have occurred about 660 BC. “These events occurred long before the advent of instrumental observations, considerably beyond the more recent range of wide observational coverage,” they stated in their search.

“As a technique of inferring the general pattern of solar storms and the occurrence of EMC, let us check for auroral data in historical papers from such instances,” the researchers said.

“In the ninth century BC, the Babylonians and Assyrians began making astrological observations. As early as the seventh century BC, Assyrian monarchs gathered and learned astrological readings from skilled astrologers in order to discern the evil significance of recorded celestial happenings.”

Rectangular clay tablets with inscriptions yielded cuneiform data.

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These three Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets from about 680 to 650 B.C. seem to refer to auroras lighting up the skies. Chemical analysis of tree rings also show that there was likely a spike in solar activity around that time. © Image Credit: Y. Mitsuma’s tracing of the photographs of H. Hayakawa

The researchers evaluated if there were occurrences that linked to scientific data on ancient solar activity in the Assyrian auroral records, and they discovered cuneiform tablets bearing records of auroras dated between 680 and 650 BC. These tablets depict uncommon pink skies, with one describing a “pink cloud” and another stating that “pink dominates the sky.”

These descriptions, according to the scientists, are most likely the outcome of “steady red auroral arcs.” The analysis also indicated that the Earth’s magnetic north pole would be closer to the Middle East than it is now, implying that solar activity-related events would have been recorded further south.

Scientists may be able to anticipate future occurrences if they can reconstruct solar activity hundreds of years ago. These discoveries enable us to reconstruct the history of solar activity. This research might help us forecast future magnetic storms that could harm satellites and other spacecraft.