Letter: Another Carrington event?
During the first Carrington Event it was midday at midnight; telegraph stations could operate without battery power and the Aurea Borealis (Northern Lights) could be seen as far south as Florida and Havana. This event was the result of a massive Corona Mass Ejection (CME) from the sun in September of 1859. A British astronomer, Richard Carrington, recorded this event, and hence, it has been designated as the Carrington Event. My interest in this event is a triad of personal experiences as a backyard amateur astronomer, amateur (ham) radio operator ---KE5GK---and 20 years of proudly wearing the uniform of this great nation.
Amateur astronomer: Over the years, I have observed solar activity, especially sunspots. The sun goes through predictable 11 year cycles of increasing and decreasing solar activity. The Carrington Event was at the peak of solar activity in 1859. BTW: The earth is surrounded by a magnetosphere. This is 24/7 shield around the earth blocks dangerous solar radiation which causes a multitude of environmental and health issues. However, in 1859, a massive (CME) sun explosion penetrated the magnetosphere and extraordinary amounts of solar radiation hit planet earth.
Ham operator: I am interested in radio communications over long distances. An increased amount of solar radiation, caused by sunspots, which are solar storms---similar to volcano eruptions---, makes our ionosphere more conductive for longer range communications with limited power. My station has only a 100 watt transceiver and a homemade antenna. As the sunspots increase (we are just starting solar Cycle 25) hams like me can talk to fellow hams literally all over the world. The Carrington Event was way beyond normal peak activity.
Military experience: By now, if you are still reading, you probably know the Carrington Event was like EMP---Electro Magnetic Pulse (similar to lightning). Just about everything we have requires electricity. EMP fries electronic gear, destroys the power grid, and triggers all sorts of societal problems. A very great concern while serving and remains so today, is the relative ease an enemy could cause cataclysmic EMP damage that would make the Carrington Event look like a single Black Cat firecracker!
Scientists warn that we are overdue for another Carrington Event. A very small preview of coming events happened in 1989 disrupting power primarily in Quebec. In 2012, NASA reported the earth narrowly missed a massive solar storm.
Glenn C. Peck