Solar Storm of 1859 – The Carrington Event

Solar Storm of 1859 – The Carrington Event

Author: MozaicNook

Among the most severe Magnetic Storms ever observed is “The Carrington Event” which took place between September 1st – 2nd, 1859. This solar storm had considerable and visible effects. It was named after Richard Carrington, a British astronomer, who saw the outbreak of unusually bright flares on the sun's surface that appeared before the storm.

Key Aspects of 1859 Solar Storm

Observation of Solar Flares

On September 1st, 1859, Carrington observed very bright light objects on the surface of Sun which were actually solar flares. These flares were so bright that one could see them without using any telescope.

Effects on Telegraph Systems

The most noticeable impacts of the Carrington Event were experienced by telegraph systems in North America and Europe where many telegraph machines failed; some even threw sparks that caused fires, while others gave electric shocks to their operators. Interestingly, even after being disconnected from their power supplies, some telegraphy systems continued to work due to electromotive forces generated by geomagnetic activity.

Auroras Visible at Low Latitudes

Auroras were seen in places way beyond their usual polar regions. The Caribbean Islands, Hawaii state, southernmost parts of USA and Mediterranean countries are among visible aurora locations. In some areas, the light from these phenomena was so intense that people could read newspapers outside at night without needing additional lighting.

Geomagnetic Turbulences All Over the World

As a result of the Carrington Event, there were global geomagnetic disturbances, marked by rapid shifts in the earth’s magnetic field that were captured by geomagnetometers – then new instruments.

Carrington Event Importance

The Carrington Event is significant because it illustrates how strong solar activity can affect Earth’s modern technology. If such an event happened today it could be far more catastrophic due to our dependence on electronic systems and satellites among other things. It has been estimated that resultant damage would cost trillions of dollars and have long-term impacts on global infrastructure.

Solar storm of 1859 or The Carrington Event provides an example for need to understand space weather better and enhance resilience of our technological infrastructure to solar storms and similar space phenomena.

What Would Happen Today if Solar Storm as Intense as That in 1859 Took Place?

If a solar storm like that of the Carrington event occurred today, it could be much worse than that experienced in 1859 given our increased reliance on modern technologies sensitive to electromagnetic interference. Key areas affected are outlined below:

Power Grids

There is a major threat to power grids particularly high voltage transformers which could be severely damaged or even destroyed by induced geomagnetic currents. This may cause widespread and persistent power blackouts with subsequent consequences for everything from homes to industrial operations.


Satellite systems essential for GPS navigation, telecommunications etc., may become disrupted or fail. This would seriously affect transportation especially aviation where navigation largely depends on GPS.

Internet And Network Infrastructure

While some key internet backbone segments are designed to be resilient against outages, extended power failures, and potential damage to communications equipment might cause severe disruptions of internet services.

Banking System And Finance

Financial institutions from ATMs through stock exchanges will bear huge effects. They depend on electricity and secure communication channels for their normal operations.

Transportation Systems

Besides air transport, other types of transport like railways and sea transport which rely more on GPS signals that are accurate will experience major disturbances.

Emergency And Health Services

Disruption of emergency systems relying on communication links and prolonged use of generators by hospitals may affect medical care.

Water Supply And Sanitation

Interrupted operation of electric pump based systems for water supply and wastewater treatment can result from this.

With these possible hazards, many governments and companies are becoming more resilient to space weather. Measures include advancing forecasting ability, building stronger infrastructure, as well as developing crisis response plans that could minimize the impact of a severe solar storm.