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Catholic monks recorded clue to ancient radioactive mystery

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the year 774 A.D., something bizarre happened. The Earth was bathed in potentially deadly gamma radiation. They mystery of course, is where did it come from, and why did we survive? Thanks to the diligent work of Catholic monks who lived during the time, scientists may have a clue.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tree rings from around the globe all show the same thing. As scientists date ancient trees they find evidence that in 774 A.D., something caused a dramatic spike in the amount of radioactive carbon in their cores. Nothing like it has been recorded on Earth, before or since.

The tree rings also correlate perfectly with Antarctic ice cores which show a spike in an isotope of beryllium from the same year.

The evidence is clear. In the year 774, A.D., the entire planet was mysteriously bathed in a flash of gamma radiation.

Gamma radiation is one of the most severe types of radiation to come as a result of nuclear processes. The high frequency gamma rays are the cause of cellular damage in the body at the DNA level, and can cause radiation burns and sickness in all organisms. The radiation is deadly, and can kill victims bathed in it within a matter of minutes or hours.

In space, gamma radiation is common, hence the need for protective layers in spacesuits and spacecraft. However, the Earth is largely protected from gamma radiation, which is largely absorbed by the atmosphere. It takes a tremendous amount of gamma radiation to affect life on Earth.

Scientists are startled by the evidence from 774, because the only way to get so much radiation to the Earth's surface would require an amazing, astronomical event, at close range to Earth. There are only four events likely to create such a burst of energy close to the Earth. The first is a nearby supernova, the second would be an exceptionally powerful solar flare. The third would be a collision of two neutron stars. The last would be the formation of a black hole, with its polar axis pointing right at Earth.

So what was it? The leading theory has been that the sun must have belched an epic-sized solar flare directly at Earth. However, such a flare would have also caused spectacular auroras around the globe, which would have been widely recorded. None were.

As for neutron stars colliding and black holes forming, these could have done it, but none have been observed in the vicinity of Earth, close enough to bathe us in such radiation. The odds of such an event happening nearby are also astronomically incredible, although new mergers are recorded daily across the universe by orbiting space telescopes. In any given galaxy however, they are quite rare. 

In fact, the only evidence we have that hints at a particular, astronomical event, is found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a book detailing the Anglo-Saxon history of England that was widely distributed and updated in monasteries across medieval England.

 In the Chronicle, a reference is made to the appearance of a blazing red crucifix in the sky, seen in the western sky, shortly after sunset, in the year 774 A.D.

It is possible then, that a still, unrecognized supernova might have created the burst? While astronomers think such an event would be recorded around the globe and its after-effects visible to astronomers, it is possible that the event took place behind a cloud of dust, thus rendering it invisible.

In fact, many historically recorded supernovas are missing to modern astronomers.

This happens, because clouds of dust commonly obscure large portions of the deep sky from astronomers. The presence of the dust could also explain the red color that was recorded. The dust would have absorbed the other wavelengths of light causing the event to appear red to observers on Earth.

It's occurrence near sunset would have also made it difficult to observe from around the world, explaining why it was recorded in only one place - it was not readily visible anywhere else.

So did a supernova cause the Earth to be bathed in radiation n 774 A.D.?

Maybe, however it will require more study and more evidence before the mystery can be solved. Scientists remain divided on the issue.

Another competing school of thought is suggesting that the merger of two neutron stars.

The best way to verify what really happened might be a repeat of a similar event near Earth. However, Earth of 774 A.D. wasn't harmed because the planet was not dependent on orbiting satellites and electronic devices. The world of today is much different, and a repeat would shut down every satellite in orbit, without warning and without hope of repair or recovery.

Such an event would return the world to the age before satellites and mass communication, all within the space of a few seconds.

So naturally, scientists hope the event is not repeated nearby.

For now, the Chronicles faithfully recorded by ancient monks remains the best evidence we have of something that happened in 774 A.D., and there's nothing wrong with that.

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