Spectacular aurora: 'Extreme' solar storm brings celestial light show

Spectacular aurora: 'Extreme' solar storm brings celestial light show

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Fluctuating magnetic fields associated with geomagnetic storms induce currents in long wires, including power lines, potentially causing blackouts. Long pipelines can also become electrified, causing engineering problems.

Spacecraft are also at risk from high doses of radiation, although the atmosphere prevents it from reaching Earth.

NASA has a dedicated team overseeing astronaut safety, and can ask International Space Station astronauts to move to locations within the outpost that are better protected.

Pigeons and other species that have an internal biological compass may also be affected. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, pigeon operators have noticed a decrease in birds homing during geomagnetic storms.

Officials said people should have general backup plans for power outages, such as flashlights, batteries and radios.

The most powerful geomagnetic storm in recorded history, known as the Carrington Event, occurred in September 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington.

Excessive current on the telegraph lines at that time caused electric shock to the technicians and even caused some telegraph equipment to catch fire.

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