Northern Lights of the Carrington Event

You get a certain hunger for Northern Lights and you have to see them again, and again. When it’s your job to think about Aurora Borealis, you sometimes accidentally start to think how big they can get. It is well known that all The Northern Lights are not the same, so who has seen the most amazing Northern Lights of all time, and when? One day I started googling and it turn out to be surprisingly solid answer: the biggest Aurora Borealis were seen 1859 during the so called Carrington Event.

Carrington Event is named after British astronomer Richard Carrington. On the 1st of September 1859 Carrington was in his private observatory examining The Sun as usual, when he stumbled upon on a very strange view: a cluster of enormous dark spots freckled The Sun’s surface. Soon after his observation the spots started erupting intensely bright light and vanished. This strange phenomenon was a solar storm. These storms are rather common in The Sun and they are actually vital for Northern Lights since solar storms send little particles all the way to the Earth’s magnetic field causing the Aurora Borealis. But there was something uncommon in this particular storm: it was tens of times bigger than any storm in the recorded history. In the September of 1859 the solar storm was so called “perfect solar storm”.

Carrington Richard Sunspots 1859

Couple hours after Carrington’s observation the particles hit our magnetic field and the sky burst in flames everywhere in the world. According to the history books The Northern Lights were seen in Cuba, Southern Japan and even at the equator in Columbia. There are records of a golden or fiery red aurora in China and in New York people have been reading their newspapers in the light of The Lights. In the north nights were bright as days when The Northern Lights light up the sky for three days.

Strong solar storms also have their darker side. If a storm strong as during The Carrington Event would take place today it would be catastrophical for the modern society. It happens to be so that electronics we use today could not handle the pulse without breaking. It is possible that The Carrington Event would cause satellites, phones, computers and other devices to stop working and the damages would be worth of over trillion euros. Luckily during the time of Carrington Event, the world was not yet very developed and catastrophe was evaded. Modern scientists are however researching The Sun, making calculations and trying to forecast it’s the activity so we may be prepared for the next possible Carrington Event. When the next event hits, we are probably so well prepared that all we get is a magnificent show.




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