Imagine that you are living in China (or even Korea or Japan) three hundred years ago, and suddenly you see the skies turn a chilling blood red. Understandably, this could have caused a great deal of fear and trepidation from those living there at the time. And the fear from the blood red skies wasn’t to dissipate anytime soon – it remained a threatening shade of crimson for eight more nights.
The September 10, 1770, event was recorded in palace diaries and other such historical documents, preserving the event for generations to come. Now, 300 years later, researchers have been digging through all the records in an attempt to explain what exactly happened on that dark day. The attempt was not done in vain because the researchers believe they have it solved. The cause for the historic event – a massive magnetic storm.
Magnetic Storm Caused the Blood Red Skies
Of course, to have the reach to satisfy the conditions reported, it would have to be one of the largest ever recorded in human history. That is exactly what the researchers have come up with as their solution, a magnetic storm so large that it rivals the most powerful one on record, the Carrington Event of 1859.
Similar Geomagnetic Storms
The Carrington Event, so named because it was first explained and observed by astronomer Richard C. Carrington, was epic in its scale. Induced auroras were seen as far south as the Caribbean, and miners in the Rocky Mountains experienced a glow so bright that they assumed it was morning. The telegraph systems of the day were heavily hit, with the pylons throwing off sparks, starting fires, and shocking operators. Some operators even reported being able to send and receive telegraphs even though their power had been blown out by the storms.
These magnetic storms are known as Geomagnetic Storms, and they are caused by the Earth’s magnetosphere (and its collection of electrically charged particles) being disrupted and charged by solar eruptions from our sun. There was another such solar storm recorded in 2012, but luckily it passed the Earth’s orbit without actually striking the planet. But it would seem that we were not so lucky in 1770.
Sunspot Drawings Back Up The Storm Theory
The researchers also searched for drawings of sunspots, which usually accompany such a solar event (as well as ultraviolet activity). The evidence found indicates that sunspot areas were twice as large for that period of time as it was noted for the Carrington Event. This would suggest that the 1770 storm was the more powerful of the two. The dates involved would also back up this claim since the 1770 event was recorded over nine nights while the Carrington Event only lasted four nights.
Modern Day Disaster
If a geomagnetic storm the size of the Carrington Event were to be encountered today, the estimated cost of damage in the U.S. alone could be as high 2.6 trillion dollars. If the event was the size of the 1770 storm, the damage would be even larger, potentially setting back progress and requiring years of rebuilding to fully recover.
It is amazing to think that blood red skies from 300 years ago would give us a warning that we should heed today, but that appears to be the case. The records from that time serve to help scientists build a pattern of solar activity, even though our written records are far too short in length to fully predict the next cataclysmic solar storm. We may have a warning, but too much is already in place that is susceptible to the effects. Maybe that saying, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning”, has a lot of wisdom to it when it comes to magnetic storms as well.