14 September 2023 • STEM How an Ancient Solar Flare Illuminated the Start of the Viking Age

Year of the Sun program welcomes science and history writer Martin J. Kernan.

Journalist Martin J. Kernan, whose stories straddle the extraordinary intersections of science and history, will join Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Year of the Sun events to share the connections between a solar storm and the first Viking voyages to the British Isles.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, Kernan will share insights from his July 23 ScienceNews article, “How an ancient solar flare illuminated the start of the Viking Age,” discussing how radiocarbon dating helped archaeologists determine when Norse seafarers ventured across the North Sea. The talk is free and open to the public, and will be held in the Fisher Center, Demarest Hall Room 212.

Martin J. Kernan

The event is part of the Year of the Sun, a series of lectures, programs and activities throughout the 2023-24 academic year. On April 8, 2024 at 3:21 p.m., a total solar eclipse will pass directly over the HWS campus. Leading up to the eclipse, Year of the Sun events will explore the Sun’s scientific, cultural and historic significance.

A longtime lawyer turned freelance journalist, Kernan has written for Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American and Science News since 2019. His deeply researched stories about extraordinary events in science and history range from ladybugs saving the California citrus industry in the late 1800s, to coral reef researchers accidentally unlocking the secrets of hurricane physics. His latest feature for Science News details how astrophysics and archaeology help explain the Vikings’ travels.

Kernan holds a J.D. from Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and a B.A. in philosophy from Hamilton College.

Following his lecture on Friday, the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education will host a Career Question and Answer event with Kernan, covering his career path that began with a bachelor's degree in philosophy from a liberal arts college and going on to law school and then serving as a practicing lawyer and now as a freelance history and science writer. The Q&A will begin at noon on Friday, Sept. 29. The location will be announced shortly.