Saturday 25 May 2013

The Carrington event, the largest magnetic storm on record. August 27th to September 7th, 1859

The Carrington event - the largest magnetic storm on record. August 27th to September 7th, 1859. Recorded at Greenwich Observatory, London.
BGS Magnetogram image ID 188878
The Carrington event - the largest magnetic storm on record. August 27th to September 7th, 1859. Recorded at Greenwich Observatory, London.

The event was responsible for a great auroral storm. The following is an eyewitness account from a woman on Sullivan's Island, Carolina and reported in the Charleston Mercury:

“The eastern sky appeared of a blood red color. It seemed brightest exactly in the east, as though the full moon, or rather the sun, were about to rise. It extended almost to the zenith. The whole island was illuminated. The sea reflected the phenomenon, and no one could look at it without thinking of the passage in the Bible which says, ‘the sea was turned to blood.’ The shells on the beach, reflecting light, resembled coals of fire.”

BGS has scanned its full collection of 300,000 magnetograms. Full resolution images can be found at

Bob McIntosh


  1. Are there digitised data sets (time series) across this event, and of "normal" events. Wasn't this about the time that the 11-year cycle was first discovered to occur in magnetics too?

  2. Hi Aidan, Thank you very much for your question. BGS are working on obtaining the time series for some of the largest storms including the Carrington one. It is a difficult task but data will be available on-line when we manage to do it. The observations made by Carrington at this time were among the first relating geomagnetic activity on Earth to solar activity.

    When released, the data will be available on the BGS geomagetism pages here: