The night sky lit up so bright that some people thought it was morning. Gold miners in the Rocky Mountains woke up at 1 a.m. to make breakfast and start their day. Birds began singing as if the sun had already risen. Telegraph systems worldwide went offline, and no one could send a message.
That event in 1859, known as the Carrington Event, has long been thought of as the benchmark for the most intense geomagnetic storm observed on Earth, sending northern lights displays as far south as Florida and Central America and knocking out communication systems. But now, new research has unveiled evidence of a much larger solar storm that could reset record books.
In a study released Monday, researchers identified what appears to be the largest solar storm to hit Earth, estimated to be larger than the Carrington Event by an order of magnitude. The storm occurred 14,300 years ago, but is evidence of a yet unknown dimension of the sun's extreme behavior and hazards to Earth.
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