Astronomy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for astronomers and astrophysicists. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

For the purposes of this question I would interpret the word "recorded" as loosely as possible meaning that historic records such as ice cores or tree rings would count. Also what effect did such a large flare have on life on Earth at the time?

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

A spike in Carbon-14 content was recorded from tree rings in Japan, possibly due to a solar flare 20 times more energetic than the 1859 Carrington Event (the largest definitively recorded solar storm). This event has been dated to 774 AD. I think this could be the most energetic (tentatively) recorded solar flare.

Such a solar storm would be far more devastating today than it was back then, in the sense that we rely so much on technology that the EM interference would cost trillions of dollars in damage to power grids and communications.

A flare would need to be disastrously large, I think, to give us on Earth radiation poisoning. Certainly, animals that use Earth's magnetic field for navigation and would get rather confused. But our atmosphere and magnetic field are adequate protection when we're on Earth.

Here is a good write-up of the situation, with a couple of Nature papers if you have access.

If you're going to delve into considering the effects of solar storms on human health (i.e. the effects of magnetic field perturbations), put your tinfoil hat on first. There's a lot of pseudoscience and little substantive research.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.