The RMS Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912, claiming over 1,500 lives—that we know. But what if the ill-fated collision was caused by dancing lights in the sky? So argues Titanic researcher Mila Zinkova in a new paper, the Smithsonian reports. "Most people who write about Titanic, they don't know that northern lights were seen on that night," she tells Hakai Magazine, noting that charged particles in the solar storm could have altered the ship's compass. "Even if the compass moved only one degree, it already could have made a difference" and set the ship on its tragic course. Eyewitnesses did describe a "greenish" aurora borealis glow over the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, the night the Titanic went down.
"There was no moon, but the Aurora Borealis glimmered like moonbeams shooting up from the northern horizon," wrote James Bisset, an officer on the RMS Carpathia, which saved 705 people from the sinking luxury liner. That might even explain how the Carpathia found the Titanic, Zinkova argues—if the liner's SOS position was distorted by 13 nautical miles due to the geomagnetic storm and the Carpathia's compass was similarly off-kilter, per Popular Mechanics. The aurora could also be the cause of failed radio transmissions that night. The official report blamed amateur radio enthusiasts for jamming the airwaves, per LiveScience, but who knows? Maybe Zinkova is onto something. (Another space weather event could have detonated 4,000 mines during the Vietnam War.)