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The 1859 super solar storm

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posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 01:37 AM
I thought I would start this thread in response to a few recent threads and posts about predicted solar storms and the amount of knee jerk reactions to inane solar activities.

Besides the current prediction of one on July 7th there has also been quite a bit of talk about one in 2012 (yes another doom prediction for that year).

Despite my skepticism on the predictions, particularly the July 7th storm supposedly predicted in crop circles, there is no denying that a large solar storm could hit us at any time.

This brings me to an event that occurred in 1859, better known as the Solar Superstorm or the Carrington Event.

From August 28 until September 2, numerous sunspots and solar flares were observed on the sun. Just before noon on September 1, the British astronomer, Richard Carrington, observed the largest flare, which caused a massive coronal mass ejection (CME), to travel directly toward Earth, taking eighteen hours. This is remarkable because such a journey normally takes three to four days. It moved so quickly because an earlier CME had cleared its way.

From the 1st to the 2nd, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred, causing the failure of telegraph systems all over Europe and North America. Auroras were seen all over the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright, the glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.

A sketch of the sunspots Carrington observed:

If we are going to get another such storm in the coming years, the events in 1859 will be a good indicator for what to expect.

Here are a couple of good links for further reading:

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 02:08 AM
1859 was a biggy but there was no power grid in existence at the time.

The strongest geomagnetic storm on record is the Carrington Event of August-September 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare with his unaided eye while he was projecting an image of the sun on a white screen. Geomagnetic activity triggered by the explosion electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting their telegraph papers on fire; Northern Lights spread as far south as Cuba and Hawaii; auroras over the Rocky Mountains were so bright, the glow woke campers who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. Best estimates rank the Carrington Event as 50% or more stronger than the superstorm of May 1921.

1921 was 10 time stronger than the 1989 event which knocked out power in Quebec. There was no "grid" as we know it today in 1859 or 1921 but here is what the effects of a 1921 level geomagnetic storm might be today.

There's no question that a major electromagnetic storm would cause huge problems with our power and communication grids. There is also no way, other than carefully observing the Sun's activity, to predict when it may occur. But at best we would have a warning of only several days. At worst, less than one day. What can be done to protect our infrastructure? Since the power surges are produced by the magnetic field within the Earth, burying power lines doesn't help.

What's the solution? The report ends with a call for infrastructure designed to better withstand geomagnetic disturbances, improved GPS codes and frequencies, and improvements in space weather forecasting. Reliable forecasting is key. If utility and satellite operators know a storm is coming, they can take measures to reduce damage—e.g., disconnecting wires, shielding vulnerable electronics, powering down critical hardware. A few hours without power is better than a few weeks.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 02:12 AM
It's amazing to think that back then a solar storm could cause so much damage and be noticed on all sides of the globe.

I'm looking forward to finally seeing the Southern Aurora if such a storm hits when predicted. Kinda not looking forward to the mass panic and possible infrastructure collapse though. Still, at least those lights will be pretty!

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 02:15 AM
Thank you Chadwickus and Phage for your insight into what to expect in the event of a massive CME. Good to know we will get some warning. Up to our governments though, on how much AND the good people on ATS.

One question though, is it our power grids or ALL things that run on power that will be affected. I'm wondering how useful my car will be and whether I should head for my bug out spot while it's still useful.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 02:24 AM
reply to post by heffo7

It isn't an EMP. The problem on Earth's surface is with power lines and communication (non fiber optic) lines. The storm produces induced currents in the lines which result in power surges. Your car (and your Ipod) should be fine.

[edit on 7/4/2009 by Phage]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 03:06 AM
If something like this really happens sometime soon, will WE the people, feel the effects? I don;t mean losing communications, but....

Radiation for all?

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 03:58 AM
reply to post by LostNemesis

No reports of people dying in 1859, 1921, or 1989.

Not much danger on the surface. The magnetosphere catches a lot of the higher energy particles but even if it didn't the atmosphere provides plenty of protection. Astronauts on EVA's would have a bad time of it. Also a chance of some exposure for people flying in jets on polar routes.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 04:31 AM
reply to post by LostNemesis

As Phage said, those exposed to open space are at a high risk, the crew of the ISS have had to take refuge deep inside the station several times over the years due to incoming solar radiation.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 04:36 AM
reply to post by Chadwickus

Thank you for the info! As always, you are very thorough and informative!

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 05:19 AM
At least we have the LASCO team and SOHO to give people some warning if a big CME is heading Earthwards. What form it will take once it gets to Earth remains unpredictable...The halo/ loop of a CME can strike us head-on with the apex or a lesser effect along the 'leg' of the loop. At that point we are still in the dark as to the geoeffects...

There's a lot of research looking to make the prediction of ECMs more accurate. We've located the areas of the Sun where the most violent solar storms occur and are beginning to understand the whys and wherefores...THE MOST VIOLENT SUPER-ACTIVE REGIONS IN THE 22ND AND 23RD CYCLES By taking preemptive actions to protect our infrastructures and fine tuning predictability...we'll lessen any effects when another big one arrives.

It's a difficult subject to grasp with terms that are defined by terms that need to be defined! I can understand the technical aspects on a fairly basic level. With that in mind, there's a great video that animates SOHO images and captures the imagination...

From around the five minute mark, there's a large comet and a great solar storm at 7ish.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 05:35 AM
1989 I was in Cheyenne Wyoming on the night of the solar storm. it was a spectacular spectacle...a night I wont ever forget.
the news people said it was a then record of the lowest Aurora to be seen in the lower 48

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 05:41 AM
reply to post by Kandinsky

Good video!

I found an animation of the solar flare from October 2003:

According to scientists the flare is the third largest detected since regular solar monitoring began 25 years ago.

It is the strongest flare since 2001 which itself was the most powerful since 1989.

A less powerful flare, also in 1989, caused disruption of power grids in Canada.

Observations from the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (Soho) satellite, monitoring the Sun from a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres closer to the Sun than the Earth, saw the so-called coronal mass ejection (CME) rise from the Sun on Tuesday.

When we see something bigger than this, it's probably time to be a bit concerned.

[edit on 4/7/09 by Chadwickus]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 07:05 AM
I have to say that the effects on humans are still being researched but there is irrefutable evidence that solar events have an impact on humans.

blood pressure, cholestorol levels, they affect the endochrine system, and I imagine electrocortical effects as well.

And they cause situational anxiety and negative emotional response.

Edit to add: Oh yeah, traffic deaths increase during solar storms too. I suspect there are other effects, but I'm still waiting on data.

[edit on 4-7-2009 by brokenheadphonez]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 07:24 AM
I wonder if somehow we are supposed to harness this great amount of energy to store and to use, i mean it only comes along now and again.

Save us burning fossil fuels !!

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 08:18 AM
reply to post by scubagravy

It would be a bit unreliable I guess.

Development of the common solar panel has come a long way in recent years, it's also a lot more reliable.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 11:39 AM
The first things that will go are microprocessors, and fuses.

The magnetism will induce a current in all metal wires, and could up the voltage causing fuses to pop, and maybe even fry microprocessors. Microprocessor are really sensitive to static charges, so, that is an issue.

Other than that, as long as you know how to make electricity with a magnet and a wire, the world isn't going to end.

[edit on 4-7-2009 by 0nce 0nce]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 11:49 AM
Thank you for the informative thread. I do have on question, though, and please excuse my lack of knowledge in this area as I know very little about meteorology and astronomy. Back in 1859, one can assume that the atmosphere wasn't as polluted, and CFC's hadn't torn holes in the ozone layer. I wonder if this would be a problem during a solar storm if it were to happen today?

[edit on 4-7-2009 by Viral]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 12:12 PM
reply to post by DaddyBare

Back in 2001, I saw a beautiful display of the Northern Lights in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. No, I'm not kidding! Spaceweather has a special gallery for that storm because it was so spectacular. November 5-6, 2001 Aurora gallery

There are photos in there from Arizona, Southern California, Georgia, the Carolinas, and even Texas and Alabama.

Stuff like that makes you really think about how powerful and unpredictable our little sun can be. I guess my background gives away my fascination with it, huh?

[edit on 4-7-2009 by sweetpeanc]

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 12:13 PM
I for one will choose not to be in a commercial airplane near this time of a potential large flare. All planes rely on GPS navigation. Not to mention many other controls that may be sensitive to the CME's. Also If some of you read the thread about the soviets not allowing some of their planes to fly over a magnetic sensitive area, I will bet there is a very valid reason for that.

posted on Jul, 4 2009 @ 12:18 PM
There has been quite a few disasters lately involving transportation. Two planes have crashed(still unexplained) a train crashes in Italy, a commuter train has a computer glitch in DC, most involving electrical failures.I feel this is just the beginning.

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