The Carrington Event of 1859 | Summary and Q&A

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May 12, 2017
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John Michael Godier
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The Carrington Event of 1859

TL;DR

A solar storm in 1859, known as the Carrington Event, resulted in strong auroras and disrupted telegraph systems. Similar events today could cause trillions of dollars in damage to our electrical infrastructure.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What was the Carrington Event and what were its effects?

The Carrington Event was a solar storm in 1859 that resulted in strong auroras, even being observed in the West Indies and Central Africa. It caused telegraph systems to malfunction and operators reported receiving electric shocks.

Q: How does the Carrington Event compare to other solar storms?

The Carrington Event was in a different class than a normal period of strong aurora activity. It included the first observation of a solar flare and a rapid coronal mass ejection that crossed the 93 million mile gap between Earth and the Sun in less than a day.

Q: How does the Carrington Event impact our modern technology?

Similar events today could cause significant damage to our electrical and technological infrastructure. In fact, a study by Lloyd's of London and US researchers estimated that a similar event today could do trillions of dollars in damage to the US alone.

Q: Are there records of similar events in history?

Tree ring studies and Antarctic ice cores from 774 AD indicate evidence of a coronal mass ejection, potentially larger than the Carrington Event. Such events seem to occur every thousand or few thousand years and can impact Earth's technology.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • In September 1859, a solar storm called the Carrington Event caused strong auroras and disrupted telegraph systems.

  • The event included the first observation of a solar flare and a rapid, uncharacteristic coronal mass ejection towards Earth.

  • The electromagnetic activity during the event shocked telegraph operators and could have a devastating impact on modern technology.

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