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Solar blast from the past dwarfed modern ozone destruction

The great geomagnetic storm of 1859 extended over a period from August 28 through to September 3 and was, arguably, the first space weather event of the modern age.The storm clearly demonstrated that the sun and aurora were connected and that auroras generated strong currents.

A significant portion of the world’s 140,000 miles of telegaph lines were adversely effected, many of which were unusable for a number of hours.

In addition to the scientific measurements that where published, primarily in the American Journal of Science, newspapers of that era provided an untapped wealth of first hand observations giving time and location along with reports of the auroral forms and colors.

Low latitude auroral events where big news for both small local and metropolitan newspapers. If the weather was clear during an auroral display, you could almost guarantee a story in the local news the next day or even a few days later.

The evolution of the aurora over the great storm period will be shown and is accomplished by combining the observations from many available sources (ie: scientific observations, newspaper accounts, ship logs, and national weather services reports) in two-hour intervals.

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.

The precipitation extended over L shells from 4 to 1.3. The implications of the configuration of the magnetosphere during the great storm will also be discussed.

* Green, J L ( , NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 630, Greenbelt, MD 20771 United States
Boardsen, S A (boardsen @ , L3 Communications Government Services Inc., NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771 United States

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