If the “Carrington incident” happens again, mankind may usher in a huge crisis

This paper takes part in the series essay competition of “great science” of Recordunkown.

The sun is a star, it is located in the center of the solar system, relying on its strong mass and gravity, firmly bound the eight planets around it. At the same time, the sun also brings a trace of light and warmth to the dark and cold starry sky. For the earth, the sun is the mother of life. Without the light and heat of the sun, there will be no birth of life on earth and human beings.

Although the sun is relatively mild at ordinary times, bringing warmth and sunshine to the earth and making life better, the sun also has temper tantrums. When it loses temper, it will find stronger energy, which is what scientists call solar storm.


Solar storm refers to a series of violent eruptive activities on the sun and a series of strong disturbances in solar terrestrial space. Solar burst is a short-lived and large-scale energy release phenomenon in the solar atmosphere, which is mainly released through enhanced electromagnetic radiation, high-energy charged particle flow and plasma cloud. When the material and energy ejected by the solar explosion reach the near earth space, it can cause strong disturbance of the earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, middle and upper atmosphere, and affect human activities.

Scientists later found that the solar storm is a high-speed particle flow formed by the sun’s increasing energy and its own activities, which releases a large number of charged particles into the vast space. There is usually an active period of solar storms every 11 years. The usual solar storm will not have any impact on the earth and human life, but if it is a super solar storm, its power and impact will be great.

The most recent record of a super solar storm was the Carrington event on September 1, 1859. When Carrington observed sunspots, he found that two extremely bright white lights suddenly appeared in a large sunspot group on the north side of the sun, and a pair of bright crescent shaped things were forming near a large group of sunspots. Just minutes after the first solar flare was observed in Carrington, the Greenwich Observatory and Kivu Observatory in the UK both measured dramatic changes in the intensity of the geomagnetic field.


Then, after 17 and a half hours, the pointer of the magnetometer jumped out of the calibration range because of the super strong geomagnetic intensity. At about the same time, telegraph operators in various telegraph offices reported that their machines were sparking and that even the wires were melted. Moreover, on that night, the colorful northern lights in the sky spread southward to Cuba and Hawaii. This event is called the Carrington event, which we now call the super solar storm.

Shortly after the Carrington event, the earth’s climate became extremely bad. At that time, the phenomenon of extreme day appeared in many areas, and lasted for eight days. At the same time, the communication equipment such as telegraph appeared some abnormal phenomena, such as sparks. Although the super solar storm in the Carrington event invaded the earth, it did not cause much damage. So some people have this question: if the “Carrington incident” happens again, in a more advanced modern technology, what kind of impact will it have? It can be very scary.

Solar storm is the result of intense abnormal activity of sunspots. It can release energy in a short time of one second, which is equivalent to the total energy released by the whole sun in ten or twenty minutes. Therefore, some people compare this activity on the sun to the sun’s “sneezing”, which is very vivid. In fact, the occurrence of solar storms is the result of the intense activity of the solar magnetic field. Due to the activity of the solar magnetic field, sunspots and flares erupt, ejecting gases containing a large number of charged particles and huge energy. After these gases came near the earth, they developed into solar storms that had a serious impact on the earth.


If a solar storm strikes the earth head-on, the magnetic field carried by the solar storm will collide with the earth’s magnetic field. This collision produces a shock wave formed by charged particles. The impact lasts for hours, bending and distorting the earth’s magnetic field. The stronger the burst, the more severe the distortion. Some charged particles from the sun can penetrate deep into the earth’s magnetic field.

If there is no electronic equipment, then the solar storm is just a more spectacular astronomical anomaly, which will not have any impact on the earth and human life. But if it happens in the modern or future where electronic products are everywhere, the consequences will be quite terrible.

First of all, when a strong solar storm reaches the earth’s low earth orbit, it will first destroy the satellites above the low earth orbit. These high-energy charged particles have extremely high energy and can penetrate the satellite shell, bringing a variety of radiation effects to the satellite platform and payload. It may lead to logic errors of microelectronic devices, program confusion, internal short circuit and breakdown of devices in serious cases; it may also lead to degradation of material performance, increase of imaging system noise, and decrease of solar cell efficiency. At the same time, high-energy charged particles may also cause radiation damage to astronauts. During geomagnetic storms, the satellite may be charged or discharged, and the discharge pulse may interfere with the satellite.


If it is such a strong solar storm as the Carrington event, it may damage most of the near earth satellites. Once the satellite is lost, the ground communication will be interrupted. When the solar storm penetrates the atmosphere into the ground, it will continue to damage the ground’s electronic equipment, such as radio communication will be seriously interrupted.

At this time, navigation failure, through serious interference or interruption, the quality of communication will decline, even if it is serious, the communication with the satellite will be interrupted. At the same time, the use of various electronic products in people’s homes, such as mobile phones and computers, will be seriously affected, and a large number of fires may be caused by the short circuit of the circuit. It can be seen that once the Carrington incident happens again, it will have a great impact on the earth and human beings. At that time, a large number of satellites will be damaged, ground electronic facilities will be paralyzed, and the earth will fall into a period of “no technology” for a short time.

The economic loss caused by this is beyond our estimation. Therefore, for science and technology, the most feared space disaster is actually a powerful solar storm. Once it happens, it will cause heavy damage to the scientific and technological development of human civilization. Of course, the solar storm is mainly aimed at electronic products, it will not have any impact on our bodies. At that time, human security problems mainly came from electronic products. Once electronic products failed due to a strong solar storm, it could threaten human security, such as the fire caused by a short circuit.


Therefore, when a strong solar storm occurs, we should temporarily stay away from electronic products, especially objects like transformers that are prone to short circuit explosion and fire. Thus, we can see how powerful the solar storm in the Carrington event was. We should be glad that it happened in the 19th century. At that time, human science and technology had just developed, there were not many electronic devices, and the impact was very limited.

So the strongest solar storm in the history of human civilization is the Carrington event? Of course not. In fact, the strongest solar storm ever recorded in human civilization should have been a super solar storm in the late Northern Song Dynasty. At that time, China was still very backward in the feudal era, and there was no science and technology.

One day in the Northern Song Dynasty, people suddenly found that the sky turned red, and this red lasted for nine days. At that time, due to the lack of scientific knowledge, people naturally did not know what this was? But at that time, people thought that this kind of abnormal weather might be an omen of disaster, which was a very bad thing.


In fact, the nine day red sky in the Northern Song Dynasty is what we call a super solar storm. The intensity of this solar storm is much stronger than that of the solar storm in the Carrington event. If the super solar storm in the Northern Song Dynasty occurred in modern times, it would be very difficult for us to predict the disaster, but one thing is certain, that is, human science and technology will continue to develop It’s going to take a big hit.

It can be seen that solar storm is definitely the most threatening space disaster for scientific and technological civilization. If there is no good response, once a super solar storm occurs, it will be a devastating disaster for all kinds of electronic equipment. However, according to the current human technology, there is no effective defense against solar storms. Just like we can’t intercept a larger asteroid, once a strong solar storm strikes, we can only passively accept its destruction, without any way.

Guys, what do you think of this? Welcome to leave a message below to discuss and express your opinions.


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