A new study by a team of astronomers suggests that a powerful gamma-ray burst hit the earth in the year 774 or 775.
The impact of this eighth-century burst, which apparently stemmed from a collision of two neutron stars, was likely marginal. Researchers have detected trace evidence of the burst from tree ring and ice core samples. But, a similar burst today could potentially cause serious damage to electronic grids and earth’s atmosphere.
This sort of finding is a good example of the growing body of collaborative research between scientists and historians on long-term climate history and environmental history. Much of this research is focused on the medieval and early modern world, which have significant textual, visual, and physical evidence available for analysis.
The BBC reports on the astronomers’ study.