Articles | Volume 26, issue 5
28 May 2008
 | 28 May 2008

Comparison and significance of auroral studies during the Swedish and Russian bilateral expedition to Spitsbergen in 1899–1900

S. Chernouss and I. Sandahl

Abstract. Results of measurements and visual observations of aurora at Spitsbergen, carried out by the joint Swedish-Russian expedition during 1899–1900, are described. Auroral observations took place during the great bilateral Arc-of-Meridian expedition, which was patronized by the Swedish Royal Family and the Russian Imperial Family. The Russian-Swedish Arc-of-Meridian measurements were closely coordinated but auroral measurements from the two sites in the Spitsbergen Archipelago were almost independent of each other. The basic auroral data for our presentation are reports of the Russian astronomer Josef Sykora and the Swedish geophysicist Jonas Westman. Both scientists used similar types of photo cameras and spectrographs, which were the best at that time and were made in Potsdam by Toepfer. Detailed descriptions of the optical devices and the system of spectral calibration are presented. A Toepfer spectrograph, possibly the one used by Westman, is still kept at IRF in Kiruna. We present a comparative analysis of auroral data from the Russian and Swedish stations on three themes: visual observations of aurora, describing features of auroral forms and giving us statistical data on aurora occurrence and the heights of aurora, photos of aurora, and auroral spectra. It is shown that the observations contain enough data to construct an auroral oval and to determine the heights of aurora. The expedition obtained the first photographic observations of the aurora in the Arctic. The auroral spectra demonstrate a high spectral resolution and show not only the main auroral emissions in the blue-green spectral range but also some weak emissions in the violet and ultraviolet region. All data are interpreted from a modern point of view. The Russian-Swedish 1899–1900 expedition carried out the first complex auroral investigations in the Arctic using optical instruments and presented well documented data and new results.