The same solar storm today could black out regional power grids, expose air travelers to radiation, knock out satellites, and disable radio-based technologies such as GPS.
May 15, 2021: You know a solar storm is serious when buildings burst into flame. Sounds crazy? It really happened 100 years ago today.
On May 15, 1921, the biggest solar storm of the 20th century hit Earth. Around 02:00 GMT that Sunday morning a telegraph exchange in Sweden burst into flames. Across the Atlantic, the same thing was going on in New York. Flames engulfed the switch-board at the Brewster station of the Central New England Railroad and quickly spread to destroy the whole building. During the conflagration, long distance telephone lines burned out in New Brunswick; voltages on telegraph lines in the USA spiked as high as 1000 V; and auroras were sighted by ships at sea crossing the equator. It was a Big. Solar. Storm.
The outburst happened during the lazy tail end of Solar Cycle 15, an unremarkable cycle that was almost over in 1921. Sunspot…
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