The Carrington event is used as a benchmark for a catastrophic ‘space weather’ incident.
It is named after British astronomer Richard Carrington. at 11:18am on 1 September 1859, Carrington noticed two dots of intensely bright light appear in the big sunspot group. This solar storm caused the Sun’s corona to expel a massive release of magnetic energy, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). Couple hours after Carrington’s observation the particles hit our magnetic field and the sky burst in flames everywhere in the world. According to the history books auroras were seen in Cuba, Southern Japan and even at the equator in Columbia.
There are records of a golden or fiery red aurora in China and in New York, so strong that people have been reading their newspapers in the light of The Lights. In the north nights were bright as days for three days.
The other impact was that telegraph lines and electrical grids were overwhelmed by the electricity pushed through their wires.
Operators got electrical shocks from their telegraph machines, and the telegraph paper lit on fire.
Analysis of ice cores suggest that such events of this magnitude occur every 500 years. If such massive storm was to reoccur, it would have a major impact on atmospheric composition throughout the middle atmosphere, resulting in significant and persistent decrease in total ozone, resulting in a significant global cooling, for instance in Europe (5C).
Also, it could have serious consequences for today’s mobile phone, internet and satellite communications and also for the world’s electricity supplies.