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Aurora: The Northern Lights in Mythology, History and Science

Ytter, Harald Falck; Falck-Ytter, Harald

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ISBN 10: 0880104686 / ISBN 13: 9780880104685
Published by Bell Pond Books, Herndon, Virginia, U.S.A., 1999
Used Condition: Near Fine Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Aurora: The Northern Lights in Mythology, ...

Publisher: Bell Pond Books, Herndon, Virginia, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Near Fine

About this title


The colorful light of the aurora borealis appears in the sparsely populated polar regions of the North during its long winter nights. Little is known about this ethereal occurrence, which provides dazzling displays of ghostly light and movement. The author has spent years studying the aurora, and in this book he reveals the mythology that surrounds the aurora in various northern cultures as well as the science behind the phenomenon as it has developed through history.

The author also records various responses to the aurora, from Aristotle to modern geophysicists, and from different cultures and traditions, thus charting the gradual understanding of this most awe-inspiring experience. Demonstrating the influence of the Sun in the creation of the aurora, Falck-Ytter also compares the northern lights with other light phenomena, such as lightning and rainbows.

Beautifully illustrated, this book offers a conprehensive understanding of a very mysterious dynamic that has fascinated and alarmed northern communities for millennia.

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Following observations made over many decades, it was demonstrated that there was a distinct daily, auroral cycle, at least in northern Europe. When the typical development of the aurora is described, it is the result of lengthy and detailed observation. The vivacity and uniqueness of each individual display actually hinders the perception of the phenomenon described.

First of all, there is the auroral "arc," which usually runs from East to West across the whole sky, and normally to the North in northern latitudes. There are often several arcs; each one typically one to ten kilometers wide, although its length may stretch over one thousand kilometers. It is difficult for an observer to ascertain these dimensions visually, because the lower edge of the aurora is most often at an altitude of one hundred kilometers or more, and the forms manifest themselves several hundred kilometers above that. The distance of the aurora from the observer is, therefore, generally several hundred kilometers.

Ordinarily, the arcs mainly appear as a white diffused light in which no other configurations are yet present. They are static to begin with and can remain so for several hours, and are most often visible in the early hours of evening. Gradually, a pulsing and flowing movement evolves within the arcs, which appear as a vertical structure of rays, taking on a green or yellow-green color as the auroral display develops. When this structure begins to move, other colors appear, such as red. Seen from close by, the individual rays seem like pleated curtains of light, or vertically flowing curves of loosely folded, curtain-like "bands." These images appeared to a Russian cosmonaut as abundant pillars of light when he flew through them. The initial amorphous arc is transformed into a pulsating, pleated band, only appearing as a structure of rays from a great distance. As the colored arc now climbs up into the zenith, waves of motion enter its vibrating folds. If these vibrations incr! ease, the band becomes a hanging "curtain."

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