It’s too late now, but I should have driven out some dark elevated area outside the city (Seattle) to see if I can spot some aurora borealis light resulting from Thursday’s X-class* solar flare.
*X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. Flares that are classified X10 or stronger are considered unusually intense.
We’re in Solar Cycle 25, which started in Dec. 2019. (Extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began in 1755). Each solar cycle lasts roughly every 11 years. The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle after which it completely flips: the north and south poles switch places. Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.
The Carrington Event was a powerful geomagnetic storm on 1–2 September 1859, during Solar Cycle 10. A solar coronal mass ejection hit Earth’s magnetosphere and induced the largest geomagnetic storm on record. The associated “white light flare” in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by British astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson. The storm created strong auroral displays and caused serious damage to telegraph systems.
Auroras were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. were so bright that the glow woke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.
People in the northeastern United States could read a newspaper by the aurora’s light.