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Thread: Watch the skies!

  1. #1 Watch the skies! 
    Join Date
    May 2008
    At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England's foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw.

    On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and "being somewhat flurried by the surprise," Carrington later wrote, "I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled." He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.

    Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.

    Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.

    The storm was caused by a huge sunspot whose effect was pointed directly at the Earth. The effect was such that it pushed Earth's magnetic field way down into the atmosphere and caused an EMP effect where it burned out electrical wiring, causing lots of damage. This was fairly mild in 1859 as there was not much about in the way of electrical appliances then, though it did burn out huge lengths of telephone cables and cause fires when telephones caught alight.

    Now we have electric appliances everywhere and really the only possible defence against this kind of storm is to pull plugs (even your telephone) and turn everything electrical off.

    The reason I point this out now is that it happened just after a period of solar minimum, like we are experiencing now.

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  3. #2  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Well, I'll remember to unplug my computer whenever I leave the house for more than a few days at a time.

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  4. #3 Re: Watch the skies! 
    Forum Professor Wild Cobra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyberia
    The reason I point this out now is that it happened just after a period of solar minimum, like we are experiencing now.
    It was actually some years after the Dalton Minima, and almost to the peak solar activity.

    We just had a similar peak in the mid 80's and the next one calculates to be just before 2100. It's an approximate 120 year cycle.
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