The Carrington Event

Let Me Remind You…

About the Carrington Event.       


It was September 1-2, 1859,
Richard Carrington made his way to his home observatory where he had been spending a lot of his time as an amateur astronomer. He directed his telescope towards the sun, placed his eye against the rim and adjusted the knobs until the big ball of fire and gas came in to focus.
For a few days now he had been noticing large amounts of dark spots forming on the surface. This time he was armed with some graphite and paper to sketch the spots. As he was drawing a particularly large spot, a massive, insanely bright light flew out of the sunspot, filling his telescope with a white light, flickering until it died down about 5 minutes later. He knew this was most likely a solar flare –or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)– and expected the Earth to absorb it, like our electromagnetic field does whenever these things happen.
What he didn’t know is that it was only one of the two largest CMEs to hit the earth in over 500 years. Normally such a thing would take days to span the 93 million miles between the sun and the earth. This time though, it only took 17 hours.

Just outside Victoria, Australia, a gold miner was working with a friend and at 7pm, the sky lit up with streaks of pinks and blues and yellows. As each color faded, it gave way to another, more beautiful array of dancing colors, slithering around the sky like an illuminated snake.
Similar views were seen from the Caribbean and southern United States, where the sky turned blood red, reflecting the ominous hue off the ocean and the seashells that littered the shore.

Across the Pacific, in the rocky mountains, where the Aurora is sometimes visible, miners awoke to what they thought was dawn. After a few minutes of starting to prepare for work and making their coffee, they realized it was just the Aurora so bright, it mimicked the rising sun.
The Aurora Borealis, typically only happens in the far northern and southern parts of the Earth, where the earth’s atmosphere is expelling the electrons, x-rays and other damaging rays the sun shoots at us, producing a magnificent light show that not many people will witness in their lifetime.

Meanwhile, in Boston and the NE US, the telegraph operators were baffled at the short circuiting happening with their devices. Some of the connectors were melting and sparks were shooting out of the wire’s connections. Frederick Royce, a telegraph operator, watched as a perfect arc of electric fire jumped from a ground wire straight to his forehead.
A special chemical used on the telegraph paper caused stacks of the paper near the telegraphs to combust into flames, leaving the workers scrambling to put it out.
Some of the telegraphs stopped working from this short circuit. Some others were reported to be unplugged from their batteries, but the operators were still able to send messages from Boston to Portland, Maine without being hooked up. The electric charge from the flare was enough to power some of the telegraphs for a few minutes.

When the Earth is assaulted by a direct impact from a solar flare on the scale of this one, X-ray’s , electrons and more X-rays are bombarding the Earth’s magnetosphere, overloading it’s capacity to dispel the rays and charged particles (seen as the Aurora), so the magnetosphere begins vibrating, sending the charge back and forth like a dizzy child until it burns circuits and overloads power-grids.
In 1859, when the only real technology they had was the telegraph, this wasn’t so much a big deal.

In 1989, Quebec, Canada was hit with a small solar flare and almost the entire province lost power for over 12 hours. If something like this were to happen again in present day, with the amount of technology we depend on, it would be devastating. People would be without air conditioning or heat; no one could refrigerate food, get water or even drive their cars. People who require things like dialysis or even medicines that need to be kept chilled would rapidly start dying. An electric grid power transformer can take up to 2 years to build. Imagine needing hundreds, or thousands.
The scariest part is that scientists, astronomers etc. all agree that we are due for a big one sooner than later.

CME research institute  
Universe today

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