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Astronomers unravel a mystery of the Dark Ages
EurekAlert ^ | 3-Feb-2004 | Dr Derek Ward-Thompson

Posted on 02/03/2004 2:54:24 PM PST by ckilmer

Public release date: 3-Feb-2004

Contact: Dr Derek Ward-Thompson derek.ward-thompson@astro.cf.ac.uk 029-2087-5314 Cardiff University

Astronomers unravel a mystery of the Dark Ages Undergraduates' work blames comet for 6th-century "nuclear winter" Scientists at Cardiff University, UK, believe they have discovered the cause of crop failures and summer frosts some 1,500 years ago – a comet colliding with Earth. The team has been studying evidence from tree rings, which suggests that the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, indicating an effect rather like a nuclear winter.

The scientists in the School of Physics and Astronomy believe this was caused by a comet hitting the earth and exploding in the upper atmosphere. The debris from this giant explosion was such that it enveloped the earth in soot and ash, blocking out the sunlight and causing the very cold weather.

This effect is known as a plume and is similar to that which was seen when comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 hit Jupiter in 1995.

Historical references from this period - known as the Dark Ages – are sparse, but what records there are, tell of crop failures and summer frosts.

The work was carried out by two Cardiff undergraduate students, Emma Rigby and Mel Symonds, as part of their student project work under the supervision of Dr Derek Ward-Thompson.

Their findings are reported in the February issue of Astronomy and Geophysics, the in-house magazine of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The surprising result of the new work is just how small a comet is needed to cause such dramatic effects. The scientists calculate that a comet not much more than half a kilometre across could cause a global nuclear winter effect. This is significantly smaller than was previously thought.

Dr. Ward-Thompson said: "One of the exciting aspects of this work is that we have re-classified the size of comet that represents a global threat. This work shows that even a comet of only half a kilometre in size could have global consequences. Previously nothing less than a kilometre across was counted as a global threat. If such an event happened again today, then once again a large fraction of the earth's population could face starvation."

The comet impact caused crop failures and wide-spread starvation among the sixth century population. The timing coincides with the Justinian Plague, widely believed to be the first appearance of the Black Death in Europe. It is possible that the plague was so rampant and took hold so quickly because the population was already weakened by starvation.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: 536ad; ad536; archaeology; arthurscomet; astronomy; baillie; cardiffuniversity; catastrophism; clube; comet; cuchulainn; darkages; economic; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; levy; middleages; mikebaillie; napier; nuclearwinter; shoemaker; velikovsky
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To: pabianice
Big deal. Anyone who watches "Stargate SG-1" knows this.

Ahh yes.. SG-1, where we can learn all sorts of things. Especially how a fine looking lady handles a P-90. For instance: notice the proper "safe" grip.


41 posted on 02/03/2004 8:02:11 PM PST by AFreeBird (your mileage may vary)
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To: Chewbacca
"Eruptions from Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood, and a few others that could have caused some of the cold weather in the East Coast at that time."

Nah. Those are just little hiccups.

Here are the dates for worldwide affecting events as recorded by tree rings: 3195BC, 2354BC, 1628BC, 1159BC, 540AD and two smaller events at 207BC and 44BC.

Check your history books and see what was happening in the world at those times.

42 posted on 02/03/2004 8:04:52 PM PST by blam
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To: Antoninus
He is proposing not that the comet "was"the Dark Ages, but rather that the impact (at 536 plus or minus) greatly increased stress in Europe (health, food, economy, and storage of food were affected) that greatly increased the destruction of the Roman civilization.

The Roman Empire was tottering, but under the stress of (starving but armed and dangerous) barbarians coming in after the destruction of THEIR previous hunting and farming areas (Goth, Huns, Vandals, and Mongols and other all began invading from the East after this time.....)

That destruction of civilization and trade and learning, in turn, WAS the Dark Ages.
43 posted on 02/03/2004 8:15:24 PM PST by Robert A Cook PE (I can only support FR by donating monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Carry_Okie
Anything but what they plan to do--just more rides for brides.
44 posted on 02/04/2004 5:05:42 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: SunkenCiv
More Mike Baillie 'stuff.'
45 posted on 02/04/2004 7:27:52 AM PST by blam
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE
My understanding is that by 540AD the Roman Empire was already no longer existed...Europe was already broken down into hundreds of principalities. The barbarians had already sacked most of Western Europe by this time. However, there were still some educated people (mostly old Roman nobles who intermarried with the barbarians) to leave written records of this period.

After the event of 536-541AD, the lights truly go out. After another hundred or so years, not even Kings could read or write.

46 posted on 02/04/2004 7:48:32 AM PST by dg62
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To: blam; ckilmer
It was a comet that plunged into the Celtic Sea

Celtic Sea: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/data/ev54/ev5435_S1998140125834_md.jpg

47 posted on 02/04/2004 9:03:23 AM PST by an amused spectator (articulating AAS' thoughts on FR since 1997)
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To: ClearCase_guy
It's Bush's fault!!! 8-)
48 posted on 02/04/2004 9:07:33 AM PST by 7thson (I think it takes a big dog to weigh a 100 pounds.)
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To: dg62
"After another hundred or so years, not even Kings could read or write. "

Yup. I've read that the kings had writers and readers and the writers could not read and the readers could not write. (Doesn't make a lot of sense but, that's what I read)

Our custom of reading wills aloud comes from that period. Everything official used to be read aloud because so few could read.

49 posted on 02/04/2004 9:27:52 AM PST by blam
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To: Mamzelle
"There have been other "summerless" years--one in particular in 1819, if I remember correctly--"

Yep........I remember it, too. Cold as all hell, it was.

50 posted on 02/04/2004 9:45:37 AM PST by RightOnline
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To: RightOnline
(snicker)--actually I was trying to remember the book in which I read about it--which was provided in a link above--and I think it was 1816.
51 posted on 02/04/2004 9:47:51 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: ckilmer
enveloped the earth in soot and ash

So it was a comet made of carbon? Or did it wipe-out a uge forest?

52 posted on 02/04/2004 10:33:02 AM PST by fella
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To: fella; Djarum
Comet Disaster Throws

New Light On Dark Age

By Roger Highfield
Science Editor
The Telegraph - UK
2-4-4

A monk's apocalyptic book and Arthurian legend are united by a study that shows how a comet plunged Britain into a dark age in the sixth century.

Studies of tree rings showed the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, a Cardiff University team reports in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics. They believe the chill was caused by a comet exploding in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Historical references from the Dark Ages are sparse, but what records there are tell of crop failures and summer frosts. Gildas Bandonicus, a Celtic monk, in his book Concerning the Ruin of Britain (De Excidio Britanniae) recorded that "the Sun gave forth its light without brightness".

Folklore also suggests that the death of King Arthur - in either 539 or 542 depending on your source - plunged Britain into a dark age. Merlin, Arthur's magician, is depicted in mythology as a "red fiery whooshing dragon flying in the sky" - an account consistent with a comet impact.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

(I think the Angel Gabriel was a comet or asteriod that fell into southern Iraq in 2200-2300BC, a fragment from this impact was given to Mohammad by Abraham and is the stone the Islamists presently worship in Mecca)

53 posted on 02/04/2004 3:32:19 PM PST by blam
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To: ckilmer
March bump.
54 posted on 03/17/2004 5:10:23 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
44BC

Lowered temperatures made Roman Senators stab Caesar in the forum (and duodenum)?

55 posted on 03/17/2004 5:16:54 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Carry_Okie
NASA shouldn't be assigned defense against anything,
that's the job of DOD.

Long term survival of our species depends on spreading out though the stars.
The only defense against the larger objects, which will hit any planetary body,
is to not have all our eggs in one basket.

56 posted on 03/17/2004 5:28:49 PM PST by ASA Vet ("Anyone who signed up after 11/28/97 is a newbie")
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To: ClearCase_guy
"Catastrophe" was profiled extensively on PBS's "Secrets of the Dead" series.
The website (warning: Flash-intensive!) for the series is at:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/flash/flash.html
57 posted on 03/17/2004 5:32:37 PM PST by VOA
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To: ASA Vet
NASA shouldn't be assigned defense against anything, that's the job of DOD.

You think responding to natural disasters is a responsibility of DOD?

Gimme a break. NASA's job is whatever Congress says it is.

58 posted on 03/17/2004 6:51:52 PM PST by Carry_Okie (There are people in power who are truly evil.)
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To: Carry_Okie
You're correct about the job of NASA being what congress and the President say it is.
That's true of all government agencies including DOD.
They could decree that the Postal Service should be in charge of "losing" incoming objects
not just mail. ;-)

Elimination of an incoming object either missile or comet is much better suited to DOD.
NASA wouldn't be my first choice to handle an earthquake either.
FEMA comes to mind for that.
Please don't misunderstand, I don't dislike NASA. They should be doing space exploration.

59 posted on 03/17/2004 7:23:35 PM PST by ASA Vet ("Anyone who signed up after 11/28/97 is a newbie")
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To: ckilmer; blam
So the "Dark Ages" may have been dark after all. Must have been one hell of a winter during this time!

Issac Asimov wrote a great Sci-Fi story called "Nightfall" about a world that had six suns and one was always shining. Every 2000 years there was a total eclipse and civilization collapsed leaving no record.

I have often wondered if we hadn't been almost advanced as we are today and maybe even more advanced. Maybe we left those faces on Mars in the past.

If you think about it, we should have been further advanced by now. Being derailed every so often is a very logical conclusion, especially with all the evidence.

Thanks for the interesting reading....truly fascinating!

60 posted on 03/17/2004 8:49:59 PM PST by TheLion
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