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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 1
Ann. Geophys., 18, 1–10, 2000
© European Geosciences Union 2000
Ann. Geophys., 18, 1–10, 2000
© European Geosciences Union 2000

  31 Jan 2000

31 Jan 2000

Simultaneous auroral observations described in the historical records of China, Japan and Korea from ancient times to AD 1700

D. M. Willis*,1 and F. R. Stephenson2 D. M. Willis and F. R. Stephenson
  • 1Space and Astrophysics Group, Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
  • 2Department of Physics, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
  • *Also Honorary Research Associate, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0QX, UK; and Visiting Reader in Physics, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK
  • Correspondence to: D. M. Willis

Abstract. Early auroral observations recorded in various oriental histories are examined in order to search for examples of strictly simultaneous and indisputably independent observations of the aurora borealis from spatially separated sites in East Asia. In the period up to ad 1700, only five examples have been found of two or more oriental auroral observations from separate sites on the same night. These occurred during the nights of ad 1101 January 31, ad 1138 October 6, ad 1363 July 30, ad 1582 March 8 and ad 1653 March 2. The independent historical evidence describing observations of mid-latitude auroral displays at more than one site in East Asia on the same night provides virtually incontrovertible proof that auroral displays actually occurred on these five special occasions. This conclusion is corroborated by the good level of agreement between the detailed auroral descriptions recorded in the different oriental histories, which furnish essentially compatible information on both the colour (or colours) of each auroral display and its approximate position in the sky. In addition, the occurrence of auroral displays in Europe within two days of auroral displays in East Asia, on two (possibly three) out of these five special occasions, suggests that a substantial number of the mid-latitude auroral displays recorded in the oriental histories are associated with intense geomagnetic storms.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (auroral phenomena; storms and substorms)

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