And while enormous solar storms are a rare occurrence, they seem to occur periodically, the researchers explained.
SPEs, also known as solar proton events, send tons of particles, such as high-energy protons, toward Earth, and when they hit our planet, they interact with Earth's atmosphere.
If a similar-sized storm were to strike our planet today, the consequences would be disastrous - radio signals and satellite communications disrupted, power grids disabled, and a whole host of modern day systems damaged, from banking to transportation.
The sun is constantly sending a stream of charged particles toward Earth via the solar wind.
Our Sun sometimes produces highly energetic particles, which are accelerated either by magnetic reconnection in solar flares or by shock waves associated with coronal mass ejections.
Leon Golub from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was not involved in the research, said the findings indicate a storm far bigger than the Carrington Event and hundreds of times larger than anything recorded during the space age.
Solar storms can be far more powerful than previously thought.
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"If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society", Professor Muscheler said.
The so-called Carrington Event of 1859 may have released about 10 times more energy than the one behind the Quebec blackout in 1989, making it the most powerful known geomagnetic storm, according to a 2013 study from Lloyd's of London.
"That's why we must increase society's protection against solar storms", Muscheler added, Forbes reported. These can linger in the atmosphere for a year or two, but when they reach the ground they can show up in tree rings and ice cores used to study the ancient climate.
Evidence of solar storms hitting Earth in the past can be found in ice cores-samples of ice that formed over the past 100,000 years. Spikes in beryllium and chlorine isotopes indicated that, during the seventh century BCE, the world was rocked by a storm that might be among the strongest ever recorded. "I am sure these are recurring features of the sun, and with a systematic search we will certainly find more".
On the basis of previous events, which have been identified between years 775 and 994, the scientists believe that these outbursts are probably a normal part of the Sun's cycle. "We need to be better prepared", says Muscheler. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The discovery means that in the worst-case scenarios, the risk planning for major space-related weather events had failed to estimate the scale of destruction these powerful solar storms can unleash.