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sted :-Last night we were regaled with another exhibition of the auroral lights, in some respects even more remarkable than that of the 17th of November. It announced itself as early as a quarter before eight o'clock, by a peculiar kind of vapor overspreading the northern sky, resembling a thin fog, of the color of dull yellow, slightly tinged with red. From a bank of the auroral vapor that rose a few degrees above the northern horizon, a great number of those luminous columns called streamers ascended towards a common focus, situated, as usual, a little south and east of the zenith, nearly or perhaps exactly at the magnetic pole of the dipping-needle. Faint undulations played on the surface of the streamers, affording sure prognostics of an unusual display of this mysterious phenomenon. The light of the moon, now near its first quarter, impared the distinctness of the auroral lights, but the firmament throughout exhibited one of its finest aspects. The planet Venus was shining with great brilliancy in the west, followed at small intervals by Jupiter and the moon; while the larger constellations, Orion and Leo, with two stars of the first magnitude, Sirius and Procyon, added their attractions. The sky was cloudless, and the air persectly still. There are but few examples on record of the auroral lights displaying themselves with peculiar magnificence in moonlight. Notwithstanding the presence of the moon, by half past ten o'clock, the auroral arches, streamers. and waves began to exhibit ... the most interesting appearances. No well-defined arch was formed, but broad zones of silvery whiteness, composing greater or less portions of arches, were seen in various parts of the heavens. Two that lay in the south, crossing the meridian at different altitudes, were especially observable. From each proceeded streatners, all directed towards the common focus. At the same time, those peculiar undulations called merry dancers, were flowing in broad and silvery sheets towards that point, writhing around it in serpentine curves, and often assuming the most fantastic forms. The swiftness of their motions, which were generally upward, and often with their broadest side foremost, was truly astonishing. Toward the horizon the undulations were comparatively feeble; but from the elevation of about thirty degrees to
Aurora Borrealis. 171
the zenith, their movement was performed in a time not exceeding one second,—a velocity greater than we have ever noticed before, which was still distinctly progressive. Five minutes after eleven o’clock, a few large streamers, of the whiteness of burnished silver, radiated from the common focus towards the east and the west. These were soon superseded by a mass of crimson vapor, rising simultaneously a little south of west, and north of east, and ascending towards the focus in columns eight or ten degrees broad below, but tapering above; these disappeared in about ten minutes, and the lights were subsequently a pure white, except an occasional tinge of red. During the appearance of the crimson columns a rosy hue was reflected from white houses and other favorable surfaces, imparting to them an aspect peculiarly attractive. From this time until half past two o'clock, our attention was almost wholly absorbed in contemplating the sublime movements of the auroral waves: they evidently were formations entirely distinct from the columns, which either remained stationary, or shot out a broad stream of white light towards the focus, while the waves apparently occupied a region far below them. At half past two o'clock, a covering of light clouds was spread continued. At this time, although the moon was down, yet its absence produced little change in the general illumination; the landscape appeared still as if enlightened by the moon, and it was easy to discern the time of night by a watch, from the light of the aurora.”
On the preceding page, is a view of the Aurora as witnessed by the French philosophers in the year 1838–9, at Borekop, bay of Alten, coast of W. Finmark, lat. 70° N. It presented the form of a scroll with folds overlapping, and waving like a flag agitated by the wind. Its brightness varied very suddenly, and the colors changed from bright red at the base, to green in the middle portions, and yellow at the top. The brightness would diminish, and colors fade, sometimes suddenly, and sometimes by slow degrees. After this, the fragments would be gathered, and the folds reproduced; the beams seemed to converge at the zenith which was doubtless, the effect of perspective.
But it is in the Arctic regions that this phenomenon is witnessed in its greatest splendor, and presenting a variety of the most beautiful tints. In that cold region, clouds seldom obscure the sky, nothing in the form of fog or mist veils the deep blue of the
AURORA. Borear.Is. 173?
heavens, every star blazes forth like a diamond, and a thousand icy pinnacles throw back their light, accompanied with magnificent prismatic displays. The bold hunters who penetrate the arctic circle in the pursuit of the silver fox and the sable, witness its grandest exhibitions. The whole sky is lighted up with the bright coruscations, and it is said that a rushing sound, like that of winds sweeping over a distant forest is heard. The inhabitants of the Shetland islands call the streamers merry dancers. The appearance of the aurora, and the emotions it excites, are: thus beautifully described by Whittier:
A light is troubling Heaven . A strange, dull glow
Lo, a change
And yet another change O'er half the sky
Of Paradise, when all the holy streams
And men are gazing to these “signs in Heaven” With most unwonted earnestness; and fair And beautiful brows are redd’ning in the light Of this strange vision of the upper air : Even as the dwellers of Jerusalem, Beleaguer’d by the Roman,—when the skies Of Palestine were thronged with fiery shapes, And from Antonia’s tower the mailed Jew Saw his own image pictured in the air Contending with the heathem ; and the priest Beside the temple's altar veiled his face From that fire-written language of the sky.
Oh, God of mystery : these fires are thine ! Thy breath hath kindled them, and there they burn, Amid the permanent glory of Thy heavens, That earliest revelation, written out In starry language, visible to all, Lifting unto Thyself the heavy eyes Of the down looking spirits of the earth : The Indian leaning on his hunting bow, Where the ice mountains hem the frozen pole, And the hoar architect of Winter piles With tireless hand his snowy pyramids, Looks upward in deep awe — while all around The eternal ices kindle with the hues Which tremble on their gleaming pinnacles, And sharp, cold ridges of enduring frost,And points his child to the Great Spirit's fire.
Alas! for us who boast of deeper lore,