Articles | Volume 23, issue 5
27 Jul 2005
 | 27 Jul 2005

World first complex optical instrumental observations of aurora in the Arctic in 1899−1900

S. A. Chernouss, G. V. Starkov, and L. S. Yevlashin

Abstract. This report presents data and analysis of visual, photographic and auroral spectral data, obtained by the Russian astronomer J. Sykora from the Russian-Swedish expedition to Spitsbergen during the 1899–1900 winter season, which are historically significant for auroral studies. These data seem to be the first instrumental observations of auroral spectra in the Arctic and some of the emissions discovered have world priority. The second known photos in the world of aurora from the Arctic and undoubtedly the first ones for geomagnetic latitudes of about 75° in the Spitsbergen Archipelago were obtained. The results of the expedition are discussed from a modern point of view and compared with our knowledge of the 21st century. A description of the equipment and methods that were used by Russian astronomers is presented. Both photographic and spectral devices using registration by photographic plates were used, along with special methods of their development and enhancement. Some statistical analysis was done on the basis of the expedition reports and diaries. This analysis shows that by using Sykora's data it was possible to discover the auroral oval or instantaneous auroral distribution over the polar region. Analysis of photographic samples and sketches of the aurora demonstrate typical auroral form outlines as they are described today. Spectral plates exposed for several hours to auroral lights revealed not only the main auroral emissions, which were well-known at that time, but several other unidentified weak emissions, which were rediscovered and interpreted years later.

Keywords. History of geophysics (Atmospheric sciences, instruments and techniques)