In 1859, British astronomer Richard Carrington saw a blast of white light on the surface of the sun. This was the Carrington Event, as scientists now call it, and it is the largest recorded solar storm ever recorded. It was linked with extraordinary auroras — the Northern and Southern Lights — that were visible in the sky near both the poles and the equator, everywhere from Canada to Australia.The enormous solar outburst also caused electrical disruptions from Paris to Boston.
While the Carrington Event may seem like history, there are many concerns about what might happen if an event as powerful as — or even more powerful than— the Carrington Event were to strike Earth today, now that humanity is far more dependent on electricity.
The 1859 Carrington Event
On Thursday, Sept. 2, 1859, at roughly 11:18 a.m. in the town of Redhill outside London, Carrington was investigating a group of dark specks on the sun known as sunspots, when he detected what he later described as “a singular outbreak of light which lasted about five minutes.”
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