A series of sudden and colossal spikes in radiation levels across Earth’s history could have come from a series of unknown, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic cosmic events, a new study has revealed.
Named Miyake events after the lead author of the first study to describe them, the spikes occur roughly once every 1,000 years or so and are recorded as sudden increases in the radiocarbon levels of ancient tree rings.
The exact cause of the sudden deluges of radiation, which periodically transform an extra chunk of the atmosphere’s nitrogen into carbon sucked up by trees, remains unknown. The leading theory among scientists is that Miyake events are solar flares that are 80 times more powerful than the strongest flare ever recorded. But a new study, published Oct. 26 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, suggests that the origin of the radiation bursts could be even more mysterious than first thought.
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