A Conflagration of Storms
All those motorists sitting at traffic lights cursing, should realize that it is not Hydro-Quebec's fault.
On Thursday, March 9, 1989, astronomers at the Kitt Peak Solar Observatory spotted a major solar flare in progress. Eight minutes later, the Earth's outer atmosphere was struck by a blast of powerful ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. The next day, an even more powerful eruption launched a cloud of gas thirty-six times the size of the Earth from Active Region 5395 nearly dead center on the Sun. The storm cloud rushed out from the Sun at over one million miles an hour, and on the evening of Monday, March 13, it struck the Earth. Alaskan and Scandinavian observers were treated to a spectacular auroral display that night. Intense colors from the rare Great Aurora painted the skies around the world in vivid shapes that moved like legendary dragons. Ghostly celestial armies once again battled from sunset to sunrise. Newspapers that reported this event considered the aurora itself to be the most newsworthy aspect of the storm. Viewed as far south as Florida, Cuba, and Mexico, the vast majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere had never seen such a spectacle. Some even worried that a nuclear first strike might be in progress.
Luke Pontin, a charter boat operator in the Florida Keys, described the colors as iridescent reddish hues when they reflected from the warm Caribbean waters. In Salt Lake City, Raymond Niesporek nearly lost his