Yesterday’s X5 Flare released a coronal mass ejection (CME) that hit Earth on March 8th around 1100 UT, with little effect. Nonetheless, every time there’s an X flare, people go apeshit and start searching Google for solar doom links. Here’s my toss in the pool. The sun’s been on my mind lately, prompting this cautionary tale of magnetic mayhem.
Check out this infographic from space.com
Have you heard about the Carrington Event? It was the largest CME ever recorded, dwarfing the puny little flare you just saw in the video above.
May 6, 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.
It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.
Source: A Super Solar Flare
Sunspots sketched by Richard Carrington on Sept. 1, 1859. Copyright: Royal Astronomical Society