Solar storm of 1859

The solar storm of 1859 (also known as the Carrington Event)[1] was a powerful geomagnetic storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867). A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, September 1–2, 1859. The associated "white light flare" in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by British astronomers Richard C. Carrington (1826–1875) and Richard Hodgson (1804–1872). The now-standard unique IAU identifier for this flare is SOL1859-09-01.

A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts and damage due to extended outages of the electrical grid.[2][3] The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth's orbit without striking the planet, missing by nine days.[4]

Carrington Richard sunspots 1859
Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington. A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of five minutes to C and D before disappearing.

Carrington flare

From August 28 to September 2, 1859, many sunspots appeared on the Sun. On August 29, southern auroras were observed as far north as Queensland, Australia.[5] Just before noon on September 1, the English amateur astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson independently recorded the earliest observations of a solar flare.[6] Carrington and Hodgson compiled independent reports which were published side-by-side in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and exhibited their drawings of the event at the November 1859 meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.[7][8]

The flare was associated with a major coronal mass ejection (CME) that travelled directly toward Earth, taking 17.6 hours to make the 150 million kilometre (93 million mile) journey. It is believed that the relatively high speed of this CME (typical CMEs take several days to arrive at Earth) was made possible by a prior CME, perhaps the cause of the large aurora event on August 29 that "cleared the way" of ambient solar wind plasma for the Carrington event.[6]

Because of a geomagnetic solar flare effect ("magnetic crochet")[9] observed in the Kew Observatory magnetometer record by Scottish physicist Balfour Stewart and a geomagnetic storm observed the following day, Carrington suspected a solar-terrestrial connection.[10] Worldwide reports on the effects of the geomagnetic storm of 1859 were compiled and published by American mathematician Elias Loomis, which support the observations of Carrington and Stewart.

On September 1–2, 1859, one of the largest recorded geomagnetic storms (as recorded by ground-based magnetometers) occurred. Auroras were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. were so bright that the glow woke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.[6] People in the northeastern United States could read a newspaper by the aurora's light.[11] The aurora was visible from the poles to the low latitude area[12], such as south-central Mexico[13], Queensland, Cuba, Hawaii,[14] southern Japan and China,[15] and even at lower latitudes very close to the equator, such as in Colombia.[16] Estimates of the storm strength range from −800 nT to −1750 nT.[17]

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks.[18] Telegraph pylons threw sparks.[19] Some telegraph operators could continue to send and receive messages despite having disconnected their power supplies.[20]

On Saturday, September 3, 1859, the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser reported:

Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o'clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.[21]

In 1909, an Australian gold miner C.F. Herbert retold his observations in a letter to The Daily News in Perth:

I was gold-digging at Rokewood, about four miles from Rokewood township (Victoria). Myself and two mates looking out of the tent saw a great reflection in the southern heavens at about 7 o'clock p.m., and in about half an hour, a scene of almost unspeakable beauty presented itself, lights of every imaginable color were issuing from the southern heavens, one color fading away only to give place to another if possible more beautiful than the last, the streams mounting to the zenith, but always becoming a rich purple when reaching there, and always curling round, leaving a clear strip of sky, which may be described as four fingers held at arm's length. The northern side from the zenith was also illuminated with beautiful colors, always curling round at the zenith, but were considered to be merely a reproduction of the southern display, as all colors south and north always corresponded. It was a sight never to be forgotten, and was considered at the time to be the greatest aurora recorded... The rationalist and pantheist saw nature in her most exquisite robes, recognising, the divine immanence, immutable law, cause, and effect. The superstitious and the fanatical had dire forebodings, and thought it a foreshadowing of Armageddon and final dissolution.[22]

In June 2013, a joint venture from researchers at Lloyd's of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in the United States used data from the Carrington Event to estimate the current cost of a similar event to the U.S. alone at $0.6–2.6 trillion.[2]

Other evidence and similar events

Ice cores containing thin nitrate-rich layers have been analysed to reconstruct a history of past solar storms predating reliable observations. Some researchers have stated that data from Greenland ice cores show evidence of individual solar-proton events, including the Carrington event.[23] More recent work by the ice core community casts significant doubt on this interpretation, and shows that nitrate spikes are not a result of solar energetic particle events. Indeed, no consistency is found in cores from Greenland and Antarctica, and nitrate events can be due to terrestrial events such as burnings, so use of this technique is now in doubt.[24][25][26]

Less severe storms have occurred in 1921 and 1960, when widespread radio disruption was reported. The March 1989 geomagnetic storm knocked out power across large sections of Quebec. On July 23, 2012 a "Carrington-class" solar superstorm (solar flare, coronal mass ejection, solar EMP) was observed; its trajectory missed Earth in orbit. Information about these observations was first shared publicly by NASA on April 28, 2014.[4][27]

See also


  1. ^ Philips, Tony (January 21, 2009). "Severe Space Weather—Social and Economic Impacts". NASA Science: Science News. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Solar storm risk to the north American electric grid" (PDF).
  3. ^ Baker, D. N.; et al. (2008). Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. The National Academy Press, Washington, DC. doi:10.17226/12507. ISBN 978-0-309-12769-1.
  4. ^ a b Phillips, Dr. Tony (July 23, 2014). "Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012". NASA. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
  5. ^ "SOUTHERN AURORA". The Moreton Bay Courier. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. September 7, 1859. p. 2. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Odenwald, Sten F.; Green, James L. (July 28, 2008). "Bracing the Satellite Infrastructure for a Solar Superstorm". Scientific American. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Carrington, R. C. (1859). "Description of a Singular Appearance seen in the Sun on September 1, 1859". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 20: 13–15. Bibcode:1859MNRAS..20...13C. doi:10.1093/mnras/20.1.13.
  8. ^ Hodgson, R. (1859). "On a curious Appearance seen in the Sun". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 20: 15–16. Bibcode:1859MNRAS..20...15H. doi:10.1093/mnras/20.1.15.
  9. ^ Thompson, Richard. "A Solar Flare Effect". Australian Government: Space Weather Services. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  10. ^ Clark, Stuart (2007). The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12660-9.
  11. ^ Richard A. Lovett (March 2, 2011). "What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?". National Geographic News. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  12. ^ Hayakawa, H. (2018). "Low-latitude Aurorae during the Extreme Space Weather Events in 1859". The Astrophysical Journal. 869 (1): 57. arXiv:1811.02786. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aae47c.
  13. ^ González‐Esparza, J. A.; M. C. Cuevas‐Cardona (2018). "Observations of Low Latitude Red Aurora in Mexico During the 1859 Carrington Geomagnetic Storm". Space Weather. 16 (6): 593. Bibcode:2018SpWea..16..593G. doi:10.1029/2017SW001789.
  14. ^ Green, J. (2006). "Duration and extent of the great auroral storm of 1859". Advances in Space Research. 38 (2). pp. 130–135. Bibcode:2006AdSpR..38..130G. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.08.054.
  15. ^ Hayakawa, H. (2016). "East Asian observations of low-latitude aurora during the Carrington magnetic storm". Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. 68 (6). p. 99. arXiv:1608.07702. Bibcode:2016PASJ...68...99H. doi:10.1093/pasj/psw097.
  16. ^ "The grand aurorae borealis seen in Colombia in 1859". Advances in Space Research. 57 (1). 2016. pp. 257–267. arXiv:1508.06365. Bibcode:2016AdSpR..57..257M. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2015.08.026.
  17. ^ "Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012 – NASA Science". Retrieved 2016-09-14.
  18. ^ Committee on the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather Events: A Workshop, National Research Council (2008). Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report. National Academies Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-309-12769-1.
  19. ^ Odenwald, Sten F. (2002). The 23rd Cycle. Columbia University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-231-12079-1.
  20. ^ Carlowicz, Michael J.; Lopez, Ramon E. (2002). Storms from the Sun: The Emerging Science of Space Weather. National Academies Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-309-07642-5.
  21. ^ "The Aurora Borealis". Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser. September 3, 1859. p. 2; Column 2. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  22. ^ Herbert, Count Frank (8 October 1909). "The Great Aurora of 1859". The Daily News. Perth, WA. p. 9. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  23. ^ McCracken, K. G.; Dreschhoff, G. A. M.; Zeller, E. J.; Smart, D. F.; Shea, M. A. (2001). "Solar cosmic ray events for the period 1561–1994 1. Identification in polar ice, 1561–1950". Journal of Geophysical Research. 106 (A10): 21, 585–21, 598. Bibcode:2001JGR...10621585M. doi:10.1029/2000JA000237. closed access publication – behind paywall
  24. ^ Wolff, E. W.; Bigler, M.; Curran, M. A. J.; Dibb, J.; Frey, M. M.; Legrand, M. (2012). "The Carrington event not observed in most ice core nitrate records". Geophysical Research Letters. 39 (8): 21, 585–21, 598. Bibcode:2012GeoRL..39.8503W. doi:10.1029/2012GL051603.closed access publication – behind paywall
  25. ^ Duderstadt, K. A.; et al. (2014). "Nitrate deposition to surface snow at Summit, Greenland, following the 9 November 2000 solar proton event". J. Geophys. Res. Atmospheres. 119 (11): 6938–6957. Bibcode:2014JGRD..119.6938D. doi:10.1002/2013JD021389.
  26. ^ Mekhaldi, F.; et al. (November 2017), "No Coincident Nitrate Enhancement Events in Polar Ice Cores Following the Largest Known Solar Storms" (PDF), Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 122 (21): 11, 900–11, 913, Bibcode:2017JGRD..12211900M, doi:10.1002/2017JD027325
  27. ^ "Video (04:03) – Carrington-class coronal mass ejection narrowly misses Earth". NASA. April 28, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014.

Further reading

External links



was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar, the 1859th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 859th year of the 2nd millennium, the 59th year of the 19th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1850s decade. As of the start of 1859, the Gregorian calendar was

12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1859 in science

The year 1859 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1859 in the United States

Events from the year 1859 in the United States.

Coronal mass ejection

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. The plasma is released into the solar wind, and can be observed in coronagraph imagery.Coronal mass ejections are often associated with other forms of solar activity, but a broadly accepted theoretical understanding of these relationships has not been established. CMEs most often originate from active regions on the Sun's surface, such as groupings of sunspots associated with frequent flares. Near solar maxima, the Sun produces about three CMEs every day, whereas near solar minima, there is about one CME every five days.

Detailed logarithmic timeline

This timeline shows the whole history of the universe, the Earth, and mankind in one table. Each row is defined in years ago, that is, years before the present date, with the earliest times at the top of the chart. In each table cell on the right, references to events or notable people are given, more or less in chronological order within the cell.

Each row corresponds to a change in log(time before present) of about 0.1 (using log base 10). The dividing points are taken from the R′′20 Renard numbers. Thus each row represent about 21% of the time from its beginning until the present.

The table is divided into sections with subtitles. Note that each such section contains about 68% of all the time from the beginning of the section until now.

Geomagnetic storm

A geomagnetic storm (commonly referred to as a solar storm) is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave and/or cloud of magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. The increase in the solar wind pressure initially compresses the magnetosphere. The solar wind's magnetic field interacts with the Earth's magnetic field and transfers an increased energy into the magnetosphere. Both interactions cause an increase in plasma movement through the magnetosphere (driven by increased electric fields inside the magnetosphere) and an increase in electric current in the magnetosphere and ionosphere.

During the main phase of a geomagnetic storm, electric current in the magnetosphere creates a magnetic force that pushes out the boundary between the magnetosphere and the solar wind. The disturbance in the interplanetary medium that drives the storm may be due to a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) or a high speed stream (co-rotating interaction region or CIR) of the solar wind originating from a region of weak magnetic field on the Sun's surface. The frequency of geomagnetic storms increases and decreases with the sunspot cycle. CME driven storms are more common during the maximum of the solar cycle, while CIR driven storms are more common during the minimum of the solar cycle.

Several space weather phenomena tend to be associated with or are caused by a geomagnetic storm. These include solar energetic particle (SEP) events, geomagnetically induced currents (GIC), ionospheric disturbances that cause radio and radar scintillation, disruption of navigation by magnetic compass and auroral displays at much lower latitudes than normal. In 1989, a geomagnetic storm energized ground induced currents that disrupted electric power distribution throughout most of the province of Quebec and caused aurorae as far south as Texas.

Geomagnetically induced current

Geomagnetically induced currents (GIC), affecting the normal operation of long electrical conductor systems, are a manifestation at ground level of space weather. During space weather events, electric currents in the magnetosphere and ionosphere experience large variations, which manifest also in the Earth's magnetic field. These variations induce currents (GIC) in conductors operated on the surface of Earth. Electric transmission grids and buried pipelines are common examples of such conductor systems. GIC can cause problems, such as increased corrosion of pipeline steel and damaged high-voltage power transformers. GIC are one possible consequence of geomagnetic storms, which may also affect geophysical exploration surveys and oil and gas drilling operations.

List of solar storms

Solar storms of different types are caused by disturbances on the Sun, most often coronal clouds associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) produced by solar flares emanating from active sunspot regions, or, less often, from coronal holes. Solar filaments (solar prominences) may also trigger CMEs, trigger flares, or occur in conjunction with flares, and associated CMEs can be intensified.

Richard Hodgson (publisher)

Richard Hodgson (1804, in Wimpole Street, Marylebone, Central London – 4 May 1872, in Chingford, Essex) was an English publisher and amateur astronomer.

Educated at Lewes, Hodgson worked for some years at a banking-house in Lombard Street. In 1834 he joined Boys & Graves to form Hodgson, Boys & Graves. In 1836 he formed with Henry Graves the publishing company Hodgson & Graves. In 1839 their company founded The Art Journal. In 1841 Hodgson retired from publishing to work on daguerrotypy. In the late 1840s he created the Hawkwood estate. After a number of years of achieving considerable success in daguerrotypy, he worked on telescopic and microscopic observations.

According to his obituary in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

In 1852 he built an observatory at Claybury, in Essex, in which a 6-inch refractor was mounted equatorially. This was afterward moved to Hawkwood, and a transit-room added, which now contains the 4-inch instrument formerly in the possession of Dr. Lee of Hartwell. In 1854 he designed the diagonal eye-piece for observing the whole of the Sun's disc without contraction of the aperture of the object-glass, a description of which appeared in the Monthly Notices of that year. For many years he was a constant observer of the Sun, and made a series of drawings of many solar spots. Whilst so engaged, at 11.20 A.M. on the 1st of September 1859, he was fortunate in witnessing the remarkable outbreak in a large spot which was simultaneously observed by Mr. Carrington at Redhill.

Hodgson was made in 1848 a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 1849 a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society.

Solar cycle 10

Solar cycle 10 was the tenth solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. The solar cycle lasted 11.3 years, beginning in December 1855 and ending in March 1867. The maximum smoothed sunspot number (SIDC formula) observed during the solar cycle was 186.2 (February 1860), and the starting minimum was 6.0. During the transit from solar cycle 10 to 11, there were a total of 406 days with no sunspots.The first observations of solar flares, by Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson (independently), occurred during this cycle.

Solar cycle 24

Solar Cycle 24 is the 24th solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It is the current solar cycle, and began in December 2008 with a smoothed minimum of 2.2 (SIDC formula). Activity was minimal until early 2010. It reached its maximum in April 2014 with a smoothed sunspot number of only 81.8, the lowest since the Dalton Minimum (early 1800s). Reversed polarity polar active sunspot regions in December 2016, April 2018, and November 2018 indicate that a transitional phase to solar cycle 25 is in process.

Solar eclipse of July 18, 1860

A total solar eclipse occurred on July 18, 1860. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is larger than the Sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.

People watching an eclipse in 1860 at Toulouse, France. Picture by Eugène Trutat, Muséum de Toulouse.

Solar flare

A solar flare is a sudden flash of increased brightness on the Sun, usually observed near its surface

and in close proximity to a sunspot group.

Powerful flares are often, but not always, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection. Even the most powerful flares are barely detectable in the total solar irradiance (the "solar constant").Solar flares occur in a power-law spectrum of magnitudes; an energy release of typically 1020 joules of energy suffices to produce a clearly observable event, while a major event can emit up to 1025 joules.Flares are closely associated with the ejection of plasmas and particles through the Sun's corona into outer space; flares also copiously emit radio waves.

If the ejection is in the direction of the Earth, particles associated with this disturbance can penetrate into the upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) and cause bright auroras, and may even disrupt long range radio communication.

It usually takes days for the solar plasma ejecta to reach Earth. Flares also occur on other stars, where the term stellar flare applies.

High-energy particles, which may be relativistic, can arrive almost simultaneously with the electromagnetic radiations.

On July 23, 2012, a massive, potentially damaging, solar storm (solar flare, coronal mass ejection and electromagnetic radiation) barely missed Earth. According to NASA, there may be as much as a 12% chance of a similar event occurring between 2012 and 2022.

Solar maximum

Solar maximum or solar max is a regular period of greatest Sun activity during the 11-year solar cycle. During solar maximum, large numbers of sunspots appear, and the solar irradiance output grows by about 0.07%. The increased energy output of solar maxima can impact Earth's global climate, and recent studies have shown some correlation with regional weather patterns.At solar maximum, the Sun's magnetic field lines are the most distorted due to the magnetic field on the solar equator rotating at a slightly faster pace than at the solar poles. On average, the solar cycle takes about 11 years to go from one solar maximum to the next, with duration observed varying from 9 to 14 years.

Large solar flares often occur during a maximum. For example, the solar storm of 1859 struck the Earth with such intensity that the northern lights were visible as far from the poles as Cuba and Hawaii.

Solar storm of 2012

The solar storm of 2012 was an unusually large and strong coronal mass ejection (CME) event that occurred on July 23 that year. It missed the Earth with a margin of approximately nine days, as the equator of the Sun rotates around its own axis with a period of about 25 days. The region that produced the outburst was thus not pointed directly towards the Earth at that time. The strength of the eruption was comparable to the 1859 Carrington event that caused damage to electric equipment worldwide, which at that time consisted mostly of telegraph stations.The eruption tore through Earth's orbit, hitting the STEREO-A spacecraft. The spacecraft is a solar observatory equipped to measure such activity, and because it was far away from the Earth and thus not exposed to the strong electrical currents that can be induced when a CME hits the Earth's magnetosphere, it survived the encounter and provided researchers with valuable data.

Based on the collected data, the eruption consisted of two separate ejections which were able to reach exceptionally high strength as the interplanetary medium around the Sun had been cleared by a smaller CME four days earlier. Had the CME hit the Earth, it is likely that it would have inflicted serious damage to electronic systems on a global scale. A 2013 study estimated that the economic cost to the United States would have been between $0.6 and 2.6 trillion USD. Ying D. Liu, professor at China's State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, estimated that the recovery time from such a disaster would have been about four to ten years.The record fastest CME associated with the solar storm of August 1972 is thought to have occurred in a similar process of earlier CMEs clearing particles in the path to Earth. This storm arrived in 14.6 hours, an even shorter duration after the parent flare erupted than for the great solar storm of 1859.

The event occurred at a time of high sunspot activity during Solar cycle 24.

Solar storm of August 1972

The solar storms of August 1972 were a historically powerful series of solar storms with intense to extreme solar flare, solar particle event, and geomagnetic storm components in early August 1972, during solar cycle 20. The storm caused widespread electric‐ and communication‐grid disturbances through large portions of North America as well as satellite disruptions. On August 4, 1972, the storm caused the accidental detonation of numerous U.S. naval mines near Haiphong, North Vietnam. The coronal cloud's transit time from the Sun to the Earth is the fastest ever recorded.

Space weather

Space weather is a branch of space physics and aeronomy, or heliophysics, concerned with the time varying conditions within the Solar System, including the solar wind, emphasizing the space surrounding the Earth, including conditions in the magnetosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. Space weather is distinct from but conceptually related to the terrestrial weather of the atmosphere of Earth (troposphere and stratosphere). The term space weather was first used in the 1950s and came into common usage in the 1990s. Similar to terrestrial climatology, the long term patterns of space weather comprise space climate.

Super flare

Super flare may refer to:

An unusually large Solar flare

Stewart Super Flare/Carrington Super Flare

Solar storm of 1859's initiating event

Initiating event for the March 1989 geomagnetic storm

X-class stellar flares

Superflare — extremely large stellar flares on solar-type stars

Large flares that occur on Flare stars

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