In 774 AD, to the shock of the Anglo-Saxons, a giant red crucifix lit up the night sky right after the sun had set. They took it as a sign from the heavens in the midst of the chaos that surrounded their people. They had just deposed Alhred of Northumbria, who had ruled them for nine years, to put a child king on the throne. Surely this burning red cross in the sky was a sign from God.
Documentation of this scarlet crucifix in the atmosphere was not discovered until 2012, when Jonathon Allen, a student at UC Santa Cruz, found it in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. What prompted his dive into historical texts was news that a Japanese team of scientists had discovered creepy signs of a prehistoric radioactive blast in cedar trees that dated exactly 774 CE.
Could the red cross in the sky in 774 CE be correlated with the freakishly high amount of radioactivity discovered in the rings of trees? Scientists in the 21st century seem to think so. Several theories and explanations abound for the possible connection between the two. This list will break down the sighting of the burning cross in the sky and its possible connections to radioactive blasts. Read on to quench your thirst for science, history, and mystery!
A Giant Red Crucifix Paints The Night SkyPhoto: NASA / SpaceTelescope
In 765 AD, Alhred of Northumbria overthrew Æthelwald Moll to become King of the Anglo-Saxons. He ruled for nine years, encouraging English missions throughout his reign to influence his people. However, in 774 AD, he was deposed and the people put Æthelwald Moll's son, Æthelred I, on the throne. That very same year, an ominous scarlet cross stretched across the sky. It was a significant astronomical event for the Anglo-Saxons - so much so that they recorded it in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The excerpt reads:
"A.D. 774. This year the Northumbrians banished their king, Alred, from York at Easter-tide; and chose Ethelred, the son of Mull, for their lord, who reigned four winters. This year also appeared in the heavens a red crucifix, after sunset; the Mercians and the men of Kent fought at Otford; and wonderful serpents were seen in the land of the South-Saxons."
The Anglo-Saxons Thought It Was A Sign From God
At first, the Anglo-Saxons brought pagan customs to England, but all that changed with Saint Augustine's arrival in 597 AD. Through Augustine's influence, a Christian church was established and the Anglo-Saxons slowly started converting to the monotheistic religion. By the time 774 rolled around, many Anglo-Saxons had converted to Christianity. So when a burning red crucifix stretched across the atmosphere, people took it as a sign from God.
Over A Millenia Later, Japanese Researchers Find Evidence Of A Radioactive Blast In The Same Year That The Cross Appeared
In June 2012, scientist Fusa Miyake and her team found disturbingly elevated levels of carbon-14 in some Japanese cedars that dated back between the years of 774 and 775. What stood out was that the carbon-14 levels were 20 times the normal amount, indicating insane radioactivity during that time period. Where did it all come from?
Normally, such a flare in carbon-14 levels are explained by huge bursts of energy called solar flares. Yet there are two reasons for why this doesn't make sense: (1) there were no recorded solar flares around 774 CE; and (2) even if there was one, the level of carbon-14 found in the cedars indicates a release of energy that is larger than any solar flare in recorded history. Thus, scientists ruled out the possibility of a flare and turned to a “super” theory.
Could A Supernova Have Caused The Crucifix Phenomenon?
A supernova is a star at the end of its life. It goes out with bang, exploding in gamma radiation. It burns brightly for a few years and then cools down to a glow that radiates for centuries. There's more than enough energy from a supernova to get carbon-14 hot and bothered. However, there weren't any supernovas documented in 774 or 775 that packed enough fury to explain the weird elevated levels of carbon-14 in the cedar trees. Cassiopeia A and Valea did make some waves around this time period, but researchers say they were probably too far away to leave potent traces of carbon-14 in trees on Earth.