Great solar flare in 1859 damaged ozone, created aurora light show, caused fires, disrupted telegraph





A titanic burp of protons from the sun in 1859 appears to have temporarily weakened Earth's ozone layer, say scientists studying ice cores from Greenland. The evidence of the massive radiation event is in the form of an excessive amount of ozone-related nitrates in the ice from that year.

The huge September 1859 solar flare appears to have gushed 6.5 times the protons of the largest flare seen by modern science —- which was in 1989...

"The flare itself was observed directly," said researcher Brian Thomas of Washburn University in Kansas...The flare was followed by a historic aurora light show and a geomagnetic storm that caused telegraph lines to spark and start fires.

In some places power surges created by the storm of charged solar particles blasting Earth’s magnetic field made it possible to operate telegraph systems without any added power...

Figuring out the 1859 event has been the center of study for many researchers because it seems to indicate that the sun is capable of much more violent weather than we’ve seen –- or are prepared for, said Thomas...

A paper using the ice core data to model the historic solar blast’s effects on Earth’s atmosphere, with Thomas as the lead author, appears in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters.


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