The solar storm this weekend is nothing next to what hit the Earth before



Aurora seen from the International Space Station


The tail of one solar storm that erupted from the sun earlier this week should crush the Earth's magnetic field this weekend, making aurora borealis (also called aurora borealis) visible as far south as Chicago.

This is the first part of the exciting space weather we have had for several months, while we are in the quiet period that reigns at the end of the current 11-year solar cycle. The small solar flare and coronal mass ejection that occurred on Wednesday also made the comparison pale with much more powerful and disruptive explosions that struck us in the past. almost certainly will be again in the future.

The most famous of the magnetic storms is perhaps the "Carrington Event" of 1859. The storm arrived at the dawn of our era of modern technology and virtually disabled the young telegraph system, while illuminating the sky from a colorful aurora to the south like Belize and Thailand today.

Recently, an international team of researchers looked at many observations of the 1859 solar storms in an attempt to reconstruct the details. The resulting article, published in The Astrophysical Journal, is loaded with anecdotes from another world.

"At 22:26 (September 2), the light of the third and fourth magnitude stars is very weakened," writes George Neumayer, director of the Melbourne Flagstaff Australian Observatory, in 1864. "Gorgeous rays through During the 10 or 15 minutes later, a beautiful arc of red light, which extended from east to west and crossed the crown, had become almost motionless.


An illustration of the view of Melbourne at the Carrington event

George Neumayer

A report from Puerto Rico described "light rays, red, purple, and purple, stretched even to the zenith" and another from central Mexico mentioned "a silver lily in the shape of a large circle arc (of the region from the sky where) light rays extend downward as if to meet a red light that shone from the northern horizon. "

Although most of the activity caused by the solar storm was reported on September 1 and 2 in 1859, the sun was actually hyperactive from August 28 to September 4. It must have been a week. It should be noted that aurora aurora sightings have been reported even closer to the equator than most accounts say, to the south of Panama.

There were many reports of problems with telegraphic transmissions and even electric shocks and fires lit by telegraph wires being submerged by the invisible attack of our star.

Imagining what a Carrington level event would do for an extremely complex and highly nested electrical infrastructure today has caused a lot of concern, and for good reason.

We have seen powerful solar storms in the modern era. More recently, a Class X solar flare killed a satellite and caused a 12-hour power outage in parts of the northern United States and Ontario on Halloween day in 2003. It was the most powerful eruption measured directly to date. Another in 1989 caused a long blackout in Quebec, disrupted by sensors on the space shuttle and caused a mini-panic of the possibility of a nuclear attack. Still, the power of the event of 1859 is greater than that of the most recent storms.

But it turns out that the Carrington event might not even mark the extreme end of the spectrum as to the intensity of a solar storm.

Earlier this month, an article in the report of the National Academy of Sciences said that there is evidence of a solar storm around 660 BC. which, with a previously known event of 775 AD, would probably have been much stronger still.

Both events could have been 10 to 20 times more powerful than the Carrington event, which illuminated the world with auroras and disabled communications.

In other words, although the sample size is very small, history seems to indicate that we have to expect a huge solar storm about once a millennium. And if the Carrington event was not the biggest of the last thousand years, as the data also show, we would have been far too slow to escape the sun.


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