I won't confirm or deny if I was hungover that morning, but I do remember feigning interest, wondering how long it was until the 11 o'clock morning coffee break (or whether I'd missed it all together). But, suddenly, I snapped out of my morning funk to see an animation of the sun do something quite dramatic - the screen lit up with a bright detonation right on the edge of the solar limb. It was later confirmed to be an X28 solar flare, the most powerful solar flare ever recorded by space-borne instrumentation.
Looking back, I often think how lucky I was to be working in solar physics research during the peak of the previous solar cycle, especially around the Halloween period of 2003.
ANALYSIS: The Sun is Feeling Sleepy, Very, Very Sleepy
In the run-up to the historic Nov. 4, 2003, event the sun had been popping off an intense series of powerful solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from two large active regions that were buffeting Earth. The radiation environment around our planet was causing all kinds of trouble for modern society. Aircraft were being diverted from polar regions to avoid communications blackouts, there were power outages in some parts of Scandinavia and NASA reported a range of problems with their satellite fleet, "ranging from temporary shut-downs to permanent damage," according to a NASA Science News release.