The Washington Post had an extended article today about the potential havoc that would be  unleashed upon our electronic civilization if the earth is hit by a severe solar storm: When space weather attacks! – WashingtonPost.com

The auroras of 1859, known as the “Carrington Event,” came after the sun unleashed a large coronal mass ejection, a burst of charged plasma aimed directly at the Earth. When the particles hit our magnetosphere, they triggered an especially fierce geomagnetic storm that lit up the sky and frazzled communication wires around the world. Telegraphs in Philadelphia were spitting out “fantastical and unreadable messages,” one paper reported, with some systems unusable for hours.

Today, electric utilities and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility. A solar storm on the scale of that in 1859 would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites. In the worst case, it could leave 20 million to 40 million people in the Northeast without power — possibly for years — as utilities struggled to replace thousands of fried transformers stretching from Washington to Boston. Chaos and riots might ensue.

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So far, though, the current solar cycle max is anticlimax : 2013’s solar maximum could be weakest since the dawn of the space age – io9.

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Take a daily glance of the latest images and data of the sun and space weather at the HobbySpace Sun & Space Weather page

SOHO sun image