On July 23, 2012, an intense solar storm narrowly missed Earth. The CME reached the speed of almost 3000 km/s, which is more than 4 times faster than a typical eruption. It was not Earth directed, but it did hit STEREO A spacecraft and researchers have been analyzing the event ever since.
They have concluded that the storm was one of the strongest in recorded history. If it had hit Earth, we could still be picking up the pieces, they say.
This storm might have been stronger than the Carrington event of September 1859 which is described as a series of powerful CMEs that erupted on September 1 and hit Earth head on the following day.
Just before dawn on September 2, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.
Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.
Researchers say that similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect on modern power grids and telecommunication networks.
In June 2013, a joint venture from researchers at Lloyd's of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in the United States used data from the Carrington Event to estimate the current cost of a similar event to the world economy at $2.6 trillion (£1.67tr).
Featured image and video courtesy of Science@NASA
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