The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began
In September of 1859, the entire Earth was engulfed in a gigantic cloud of seething gas, and a blood-red aurora erupted across the planet. This title presents the story behind Carrington's observations of a mysterious explosion on the surface of the Sun and how his brilliant insight helped to usher in the modern era of astronomy.
In September of 1859, the entire Earth was engulfed in a gigantic cloud of seething gas, and a blood-red aurora erupted across the planet from the poles to the tropics. Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe. However, nobody knew what could have released such strange forces upon the Earth - nobody, that is, except the amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington. In this riveting account, Stuart Clark tells for the first time the full story behind Carrington's observations of a mysterious explosion on the surface of the Sun and how his brilliant insight - that the Sun's magnetism directly influences the Earth - helped to usher in the modern era of astronomy. Clark vividly brings to life the scientists who roundly rejected the significance of Carrington's discovery of solar flares, as well as those who took up his struggle to prove the notion that the Earth could be touched by influences from space.; Clark also reveals new details about the sordid scandal that destroyed Carrington's reputation and led him from the highest echelons of science to the very lowest reaches of love, villainy, and revenge. "The Sun Kings" transports us back to Victorian England, into the very heart of the great nineteenth-century scientific controversy about the Sun's hidden influence over our planet.
List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi Prologue: The Dog Years 1 Chapter One: The First Swallow of Summer 9 Chapter Two: Herschel's Grand Absurdity 25 Chapter Three: The Magnetic Crusade 47 Chapter Four: The Solar Lockstep 58 Chapter Five: The Day and Night Observatory 71 Chapter Six: The Perfect Solar Storm 80 Chapter Seven: In the Grip of the Sun 93 Chapter Eight: The Greatest Prize of All 98 Chapter Nine: Death at the Devil's Jumps 117 Chapter Ten: The Sun's Librarian 129 Chapter Eleven: New Flare, New Storm, New Understanding 148 Chapter Twelve: The Waiting Game 168 Chapter Thirteen: The Cloud Chamber 179 Epilogue: Magnetar Spring 188 Bibliography 191 Index 207