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Eyewitness reports of the great auroral storm of 1859


Green, JL and Boardsen, S and Odenwald, S and Humble, JE and Pazamickas, KA, Eyewitness reports of the great auroral storm of 1859, Advances in Space Research, 38, (2) pp. 145-154. ISSN 0273-1177 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.12.021


The great geomagnetic storm of 1859 is really composed of two closely spaced massive worldwide auroral events. The first event began on August 28th and the second began on September 2nd. It is the storm on September 2nd that results from the Carrington-Hodgson white light flare that occurred on the sun September 1st. In addition to published scientific measurements; newspapers, ship logs, and other records of that era provide an untapped wealth of first hand observations giving time and location along with reports of the auroral forms and colors. At its height, the aurora was described as a blood or deep crimson red that was so bright that one "could read a newspaper by". Several important aspects of this great geomagnetic storm are simply phenomenal. Auroral forms of all types and colors were observed to geographic latitudes of 25° and lower. Significant portions of the world's 125,000 miles of telegraph lines were also adversely affected. Many of which were unusable for 8 h or more and had a small but notable economic impact. This paper presents only a select few available first hand accounts of the Great Auroral Event of 1859 in an attempt to give the modern reader a sense of how this spectacular display was received by the public from many places around the globe and present some other important historical aspects of the storm. © 2006 COSPAR.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Physical Sciences
Research Group:Astronomical sciences
Research Field:High energy astrophysics and galactic cosmic rays
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the physical sciences
UTAS Author:Humble, JE (Dr John Humble)
ID Code:41300
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:28
Deposited By:Physics
Deposited On:2006-08-01
Last Modified:2007-03-14

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