The 1859 Carrington Event

History Documentaries

On September 3, 1859 the Memphis Tennessee Daily Appeal noted a most startling event. “On Thursday night last, about 12 o clock, the heavens were suddenly lit up as with a half dozen moons.” The glow was so remarkable that people assumed it must be coming from a massive fire, and the paper reported that city fire bells were rung. But, the paper writes “When the truth revealed itself, it appeared that old nature had only lit up its own chandelier.” The lights were the aurora borealis, although you can hardly fault people from the American South for not recognizing the northern lights. And while the people of Memphis might have been overawed at the “Nature’s chandelier,” the article gives no indication that they truly knew how extraordinary the event was, nor its connection to the glowing ball of gas called the sun.

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