Introduction


Solar Flare http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2009/09/filament_trace_big.gif
Solar Flare http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2009/09/filament_trace_big.gif
Not many people get to experience something historic and potentially life changing. Imagine witnessing something so unusual that you can't even begin to think a thought or say a word, just frozen with wonderment. On the morning of September 1, 1859, England's foremost solar astronomer Richard Carrington was doing his usual routine in his private observatory. His telescope was projecting the image of the sun on a paper as he drew the sunspots he saw. He observed enormous groups of sunspots and then suddenly two beads of bright lights appeared over the sunspots and morphed into kidney shapes. He quickly drew and then realized he was experiencing something unusual. He left and tried to call someone to witness it with him but in a minute he came back and was mortified to find out that it changed and disappeared. But before the morning of the next day, the world was to see something magnificent. The calm sky erupted in colors of purple, red and green while technology went haywire. Even he probably did not realize the significance of this event to be observed down in history.

Synopsis


Drawing of what Carrington observed on September 1, 1859 http://www.scienceblogs.de/frischer-wind/Sonnenflecken-thumb-512x319.jpg
Drawing of what Carrington observed on September 1, 1859 http://www.scienceblogs.de/frischer-wind/Sonnenflecken-thumb-512x319.jpg

Richard Christopher Carrington was born on May 26, 1826 and died on November 27, 1875. In his lifetime, he was educated at Cambridge and established his own observatory in 1853 at Redhill Reilgate. He discovered the different rotation of the sun by sun spot observations. He also published A Catalogue of 3,735 Circumpolar Stars and won The Gold Metal of the Royal Astronomical Society. A solar flare like what he observed is a sudden eruption of magnetic energy released on or near the surface of the sun, usually associated with sunspots and accompanied by bursts of electromagnetic radiation and particles. Ultraviolet and x-ray radiation from solar flares often induce electromagnetic disturbances in the earth's atmosphere. At the time of this super flare, Carrington was not the only one to witness this event. On the day after the event, luminous atmospheric phenomenons appeared as streamers and bands of lights called auroras fled across the skies that even reached the tropical areas of Hawaii, Cuba, Jamaica and El Salvador. They are thought to be caused by charged particles from the sun entering the earth's magnetic field that stimulates molecules in the atmosphere. The geomagnetic effects of the storm caused a massive effect on the technology at the time. Telegraph systems went crazy. The telegraph workers were said to be shocked by spark discharges from their equipment, even if the battery was no longer connected to power the lines, the messages could still be transmitted. It's like a cellular phone working even if the battery is pulled out.

What We Learned


Super Flare of the Sun http://66.175.38.157/x40+%20super%20flare%20photo%20031104.gif
Super Flare of the Sun http://66.175.38.157/x40+%20super%20flare%20photo%20031104.gif
At solar sunspot maximum we now know that solar flares happen quite frequently and they show their existence by giving off X-rays. Research shows that Carrington flares are half-millennium events, although they are far from solid. Because of the affects of the telegraph systems, we know that our electronic systems have become way more advanced and sophisticated, used in everyday life so it's more vulnerable to solar activity. Experts have studied that cell phone communications, radar and GPS receivers could be disrupted by solar radio noise. On Earth, long distance telephone cables and power lines might be affected by aurora currents like what happened in 1989. Experts also say if a Carrington class flare were to happen little could be done to protect our satellites. The potential damage on the 900 plus satellites in orbit estimates between $30 billion and $70 billion. Also if this were to happen, humans in space would be in peril. Astronauts would only have minutes to find shelter adequate enough to protect them and get away in time. . What makes the Carrington Flare so interesting is how massive it was and the effect normal people could see themselves. Just imagine some day something out of the ordinary extraordinarily happened,
and could change your life dramatically. If a repeat of this flare were to happen life would not be the same for many many years. Our technology would be wiped out, communication, computers, information, etc. So we can only hope that it won't happen again..at least not in our lifetime.