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EXCLUSIVE: Gamma ray explosion irradiated Earth in eighth century

Kramer Phillips | @KramerPhillips| January 23, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Gamma ray explosion irradiated Earth in eighth century

Evidence suggests a gamma ray burst hit our planet in AD 774.

Recent evidence suggests that 1240 years ago the Earth was bombarded by a massive gamma-ray burst, the most powerful known explosion in the universe. Researchers studying ancient Japanese cedar trees have found unusually high levels of the isotope carbon-14, corresponding with a surge in beryllium-10 in Arctic ice at the same time, which suggest that a powerful flash of cosmic radiation hit our planet in AD 774 or 775. The carbon-14 concentrations discovered in the cedars is about 20 times levels normally expected to result from solar modulation.

The explosion was likely caused by the collision of two neutron stars, which released an apocalyptic two-second blast of radiation as their two massive cores fused into one. Fortunately, the event occurred thousands of light years away, so the impact on middle-age humans and other species was relatively minor.

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