A tough question on the face of it, but the researchers claim to have unearthed a ‘new type of solar event’ based on evidence from one tree (according to this report).
Nagoya, Japan – An international team led by researchers at Nagoya University, along with US and Swiss colleagues, has identified a new type of solar event and dated it to the year 5480 BC; they did this by measuring carbon-14 levels in tree rings, which reflect the effects of cosmic radiation on the atmosphere at the time, as Scienmag reports.
They have also proposed causes of this event, thereby extending knowledge of how the sun behaves. When the activity of the sun changes, it has direct effects on the earth.
For example, when the sun is relatively inactive, the amount of a type of carbon called carbon-14 increases in the earth’s atmosphere. Because carbon in the air is absorbed by trees, carbon-14 levels in tree rings actually reflect solar activity and unusual solar events in the past.
The team took advantage of such a phenomenon by analyzing a specimen from a bristlecone pine tree, a species that can live for thousands of years, to look back deep into the history of the sun.