Meet the very tough little probe that’s going to save us from ...

Ideas

Meet the very tough little probe that’s going to save us from the sun

Solar Orbiter is heading off to our star to help scientists work out how to protect Earth from giant solar flares

Sarah Knapton

Anyone gazing up at the English night sky on September 1, 1859, would have noticed a curious phenomenon, as the Northern Lights danced brightly above much of the country.

Days earlier, the sun had started flinging a colossal wave of electrified gas and subatomic particles at Earth, sparking the largest geomagnetic storm ever seen. Dubbed the Carrington Event after the British astronomer who recorded it, the giant solar flare did not stop with an impressive light show, but wrought havoc on telegraph systems, showering startled operators with sparks, igniting piles of paper and crippling communications.

The Southern Lights shone so bright in Australia that gold miners woke up in the middle of the night and began making breakfast...

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.