Warm nights, clear skies: the conditions for viewing northern lights have been perfect lately (most nights), and the great green swirls have not failed to deliver. The autumn skies, with meteors, the moon and the Milky Way are spectacular.
Such a phenomenal showing deserves the words of a great observer to describe it. One man who obliged was Captain Robert Falcon Scott (who wrote of aurora australis, of course, but the phenomenon is the same):
The eastern sky was massed with swaying auroral light … fold on fold the arches and curtains of vibrating luminosity rose and spread across the sky, to slowly fade and yet again spring to glowing life.
The brighter light seemed to flow, now to mass itself in wreathing folds in one quarter, from which lustrous streamers shot upward, and anon to run in waves through the system of some dimmer figure as if to infuse new life within it.
It is impossible to witness such a beautiful phenomenon without a sense of awe, and yet this sentiment is not inspired by its brilliancy but rather by its delicacy in light and colour, its transparency, and above all by its tremulous evanescence of form. There is no glittering splendour to dazzle the eye, as has been too often described; rather the appeal is to the imagination by the suggestion of something wholly spiritual, something instinct with a fluttering ethereal life, serenely confident yet restlessly mobile.
Captain Scott watched this light show in June of 1911. He wondered why no civilization had worshiped the aurora as a manifestation of the gods.
These days, staring into the fathomless dome above us with only slightly more knowledge of the science behind the aurora, what thoughts are evoked in your mind?
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