While there has been some minor solar activity lately, the sun has been actively evolving for hundreds of millions if not billions of years. On September 1, 1859 a massive solar flare known as the Carrington Event was felt around the globe. Beginning August 28 and lasting until September 2, sun spots and flares were recorded by British Astronomer Richard Carrington and independently noted by astronomer Richard Hodson; the resulting effects were felt by hundreds of millions around the world. Carrington noted the reports and recordings of disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere recorded at Kew Observatory and connected the solar activity with electro-magnetic disturbance on earth.
Following the Carrington Event, aurorae were seen all over the world, far further south than typically recorded-as far south as the Carribean. In the American Southwest, goldminers awoke in the middle of the night thinking it was dawn. At the dawn of the Electric Age, telegraphs world-wide were interrupted or showed disturbances ranging from disrupted signals to poles and equipment catching fire and emmitting sparks and electrical discharge. Scientists have calculated that such storms occur appoximately every 500 years.
On September 3, 1859, the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser reported, “Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.”
Image of Richard Carrington’s sunspot observations in the public domain, used courtesy Wikipedia.
Image of a solar flare courtesy NASA.
Excerpt from The Baltimore American in the public domain, used courtesy Wikipedia.