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Carrington's Flare

#16b.     Carrington's Flare

Excerpt from: Description of a Singular Appearance seen in the Sun on September 1, 1859.
by Richard C. Carrington,
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 20, 13-15, 1860.

  (Files in red–history)


13. Fast Particles

14. Synch. Orbit

15. Energy

16. The Sun

  16H. Schwabe, 1843

  16a. Schwabe paper

  16b. Carrington, 1859

17. The Corona

18. Solar Wind

18A. Interplan. Field

  18H.Solar Wind obs.

        While engaged in the forenoon of Thursday, September 1, in taking my customary observation of the forms and positions of the solar spots, an appearance was witnessed which I believe to be exceedingly rare. The image of the sun's disk was, as usual with me, projected on to a plate of glass coated with distemper of a pale straw color, and at a distance and under a power which presented a picture of about 11 inches diameter. I had secured diagrams of all the groups and detached spots, and was engaged at the time in counting from the chronometer and recording the contacts of the spots with the cross-wires used in the observation, when within the area of the great north group (the size of which had previously excited great remark), two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out, in the positions indicated in fig. 1 ...

         My first impression was that by some chance a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the screen attached to the object glass, for the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sun-light; but by at once interrupting the current observation, and causing the image to move ...

         I saw I was an unprepared witness of a very different affair. I therefore noted down the time by the chronometer, and seeing the outburst to be very rapidly on the increase, and being somewhat flurried by the surprise, I hastily ran to call some one to witness the exhibition with me, and on returning within 60 seconds, was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled. Very shortly afterwards the last trace was gone. In this lapse of 5 minutes, the two patches of light traversed a space of about 35,000 miles.

Further reading:

Click here for a text of Carrington's full article, including illustration.

...And for scientists: a contemporary article on Carrington's flare, The extreme magnetic storm of 1-2 September 1859 by Bruce T. Tsurutani, Walter D. Gonzalez, G.S. Lakhina and S. Alex, Journal of Geophysical Research, issue A7, article SSH-1, July 2003.

Last updated 25 November 2001
Re-formatted 3-12-06