A Carrington Event is one of those things that are not very well known, but if one occurs, we all may be in deep trouble.
In 1859, our sun was highly active and spat out a coronal mass in what is now called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). It caused the largest known geomagnetic storm ever recorded. The event was noted by astronomer Richard Carrington (1826-1875), from his observatory near London. Solar events of this kind have come to be known as Carrington Events.
The 1859 CME bathed the planet in ultraviolet and X rays. The auroras were seen as far south as the Caribbean. It disrupted the telegraphic system. The CME took more than seventeen hours to reach Earth through 93 million miles of space, so if one occurs and heads directly for us, there will be some advance warning.
A CME in 1859 did little harm, but one of the same strength now is a potential catastrophe for our wired world. It could take out satellites. It would disrupt GPS and cause chaos in air travel. It likely would take down cell phones, and disrupt the global financial system. It could disrupt power grids and anything else dependent on electronic systems.
It is not clear how long the impact would last, but the scale of the disruptions would be very large and affect most of the world’s population. They are expected about every 150 years, so we’re about due for one.
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