On this day in 1859 a massive wave of energy from the sun - a coronal mass ejection or CME - energized our planet to the point that it literally "turned on the lights." Our friends at spaceweather.com wrote this about the event:
You can link to the rest of this post in the spaceweather.com archives.
... a billion-ton coronal mass ejection (CME) slammed into Earth's magnetic field. Campers in the Rocky Mountains woke up in the middle of the night, thinking that the glow they saw was sunrise. No, it was the Northern Lights. People in Cuba read their morning paper by the red illumination of aurora borealis. Earth was peppered by particles so energetic, they altered the chemistry of polar ice.
|Orange dots mark sighting of auroras on the morning of September 2, 1859|
The geomagnetic storm that day was so powerful that telegraph keys sparked and caught fire. Even with power lost in the lines, the storm electrified them to the point that messages could still be sent. Given our dependence on technology today, such storms pose a significant threat. From NASA's Science News page:
Read the complete (brief) Science News story here.
Events of this nature, as well as those involving near earth objects, perhaps deserve as much attention as those from anthropogenic climate change.