Nashville, Tenn. (PRWEB) November 29, 2012
In 1972, a huge solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois. Seventeen years later, another flare from the sun disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Quebec generating station in Canada, blacking out most of the province and causing 6 million people to lose power for nine hours. In 2006, a solar flare was so intense that it damaged the instrument taking a photo of it from a satellite more than 90 million miles away.
Today, X-ray telescopes in space and radio telescopes in space and on Earth provide alerts that solar flares are on the way, but even that advance information probably won’t help avoid disastrous results to communications systems if a flare similar to the one that struck in 1859 comes calling, according to the NASA website.
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Observed by Richard Carrington, one of England’s foremost solar astronomers, the 1859 flare manifested itself in a mammoth cloud of charged particles and detached magnetic loops that crashed into Earth’s magnetic field the next day, causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds the planet to shake and quiver. Turning skies all over Earth red green and purple, it disrupted telegraph systems, shocked telegraph operators and set telegraph paper on fire. (Nov. 27, 2012, was the 137th anniversary of Carrington’s death.)
David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., says that records indicate the Carrington Event was nearly twice as big as any other solar flare in at least the past 500 years. If anything even close to that event occurs in a modern society, hundreds of satellites in orbit will be at risk, not to mention power grids on Earth.
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