Ancient Babylonian 'omens' reveal timing of an extraordinary solar storm that's mentioned in the Bible As long as humans have walked the Earth they have looked to the sky for signs of things to come. Ancient Assyrian sky gazers even carved their findings on tablets which have now revealed when a major solar storm hit the planet.
The ancient stone documents were messages to kings from professional astrologers who were paid to interpret omens, such as comets, meteors and the movement of planets.
Some of the arcane observations survive to the present day and scientists say they have helped them hone in on when Earth was caught in an extreme solar storm.
Recent analyses have revealed that the extraordinary event that was so powerful that it left radioactive particles in tree rings across the world sometime around 660 BCE. Another study found similar signs of a storm from around this period buried deep in Greenland's ice.
Prompted by these two studies, a team of Japanese researchers scoured eye-witness reports in the ancient texts for accounts of the kind of spectacular light shows that usually accompany these enormous geomagnetic events.
Many of the reports weren't dated, but the researchers could produce date ranges based on the astrologer who wrote the report. They managed to find three ancient tablets that mention an unusual red glow in the sky that matches with the timeframe for the radiation concentrations in the tree rings.
These observations were made around 2,700 years ago in Babylon and the Assyrian city of Nineveh and both are mentioned contemporaneously in the Bible.
One tablet says, "red covers the sky," while another mentions a "red cloud." The scientists say these were caused by the Sun's particles interacting with the atmosphere following the massive storm.
"These findings allow us to recreate the history of solar activity a century earlier than previously available records," explained the study's senior author, Yasuyuki Mitsuma. "This research can assist in our ability to predict future solar magnetic storms, which may damage satellites and other spacecraft."