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The Aurora Explained
The Aurora Explained

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Aurora Milestones!

1600 English physician William Gilbert shows that earth is a gigantic magnet.

1774 Jean Jacque Dortous de Mairan of France relates auroral displays to solar activity.

1868 Elias Loomis of Yale University identifies the auroral zone.

1868 Anders Jonas Angstrom of Sweden uses a prism to show that auroral light differs from sunlight.

1910 Carl Stormer of Norway uses triangulation to measure auroral heights.

1925 Merle Tuve and others at the Carnegie Institution of Washington announce discovery of the ionosphere. an electrically conducting layer of the high atmosphere (starting at roughly 50 miles altitude).

1830 In Alaska. measurements by Veryl Fuller (1930-1934) confirm that auroras occur at the same altitudes throughout the northern auroral zone.

1939 World War II intensifies study of auroral effects on radio communication, navigation, and detection systems.

1957 During the International Geophysical Year (IGY). extensive auroral studies occur and all-sky camera networks simultaneously record auroral displays throughout the arctic auroral zone. The first satellite, Sputnik I, orbits earth measuring density and other upper atmosphere features. The U.S. Explorer I satellite shortly follows.

1964 Geophysical Institute scientists identify the auroral substorm. an intermittent surge of auroral activity. Several other important advances result from IGY data

1967 Scientists at the Geophysical Institute showed that electrons causing northern and southern auroras come from the same source, creating simultaneous and often mirror-image auroras in the north and south polar regions.

1974 Institute scientists observe evidence that electric fields exist parallel to the magnetic field. They also lead a multinational expedition to the eastern Arctic to observe the daytime aurora and its direct relationship to the solar wind.

TODAY new observation techniques and theoretical work at the Geophysical Institute and elsewhere continue to increase understanding of the processes that produce the beautiful aurora. Click For Printer Version

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© Copyrighted 1998 - 2006 by Neal B. Brown
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