Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/982

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932
AURORA POLARIS

points changes rapidly with change of latitude and longitude, and has a large diurnal variation. Thus there must in general be a difference between the observer’s magnetic meridian—answering to the mean position of the magnetic needle at his station—and the direction the needle would have at a given hour, if undisturbed by the aurora, at any spot where the phenomena which the observer sees as aurora exist.

Very elaborate observations have been made during several Arctic expeditions of the azimuths of the summits of auroral arcs. At Cape Thorsden (7) in 1882-1883 the mean azimuth derived from 371 arcs was 24° 12′ W., or 11° 27′ to the W. of the magnetic meridian. As to the azimuths in individual cases, 130 differed from the mean by less than 10°, 118 by from 10° to 20°, 82 by from 20° to 30°, 21 by from 30° to 40°, 14 by from 40° to 50°; in six cases the departure exceeded 50°, and in one case it exceeded 70°. Also, whilst the mean azimuths deduced from the observations between 6 a.m. and noon, between noon and 6 p.m., and between 6 p.m. and midnight, were closely alike, their united mean being 22.4° W. of N. (or E. of S.), the mean derived from the 113 arcs observed between midnight and 6 a.m. was 47.8° W. At Jan Mayen (8) in 1882-1883 the mean azimuth of the summit of the arcs was 28.8° W. of N., thus approaching much more closely to the magnetic meridian 29.9° W. As to individual azimuths, 113 lay within 10° of the mean, 37 differed by from 10° to 20°, 18 by from 20° to 30°, 6 by from 30° to 40°, whilst 6 differed by over 40°. Azimuths were also measured at Jan Mayen for 338 auroral bands, the mean being 22.0° W., or 7.9° to the east of the magnetic meridian. Combining the results from arcs and bands, Carlheim-Gyllensköld gives the “anomaly” of the auroral meridian at Jan Mayen as 5.7° E. At the British Polar station of 1882, Fort Rae (62° 23′ N. lat., 115° 44′ W. long.), he makes it 15.7° W. At Godthaab in 1882-1883 the auroral anomaly was, according to Paulsen, 15.5° E., the magnetic meridian lying 57.6° W. of the astronomical.

14. Auroral Zenith.—Another auroral direction having apparently a close relation to terrestrial magnetism is the imaginary line drawn to the eye of an observer from the centre of the corona—i.e. the point to which the auroral rays converge. This seems in general to be nearly coincident with the direction of the dipping needle.

Thus at Cape Thorsden (7) in 1882-1883 the mean of a considerable number of observations made the angle between the two directions only 1° 7′, the magnetic inclination being 80° 35′, whilst the coronal centre had an altitude of 79° 55′ and lay somewhat to the west of the magnetic meridian. Even smaller mean values have been found for the angle between the auroral and magnetic “zeniths”—as the two directions have been called—e.g. 0° 50′ at Bossekop (16) in 1838-1839, and 0° 7′ at Treurenberg (17) (79° 55′ N. lat., 16° 51′ E. long.) in 1899-1900.

15. Relations to Magnetic Storms.—That there is an intimate connexion between aurora when visible in temperate latitudes and terrestrial magnetism is hardly open to doubt. A bright aurora visible over a large part of Europe seems always accompanied by a magnetic storm and earth currents, and the largest magnetic storms and the most conspicuous auroral displays have occurred simultaneously. Noteworthy examples are afforded by the auroras and magnetic storms of August 28-29 and September 1-2, 1859; February 4, 1872; February 13-14 and August 12, 1892; September 9, 1898; and October 31, 1903. On some of these occasions aurora was brilliant in both the northern and southern hemispheres, whilst magnetic disturbances were experienced the whole world over. In high latitudes, however, where both auroras and magnetic storms are most numerous, the connexion between them is much less uniform. Arctic observers, both Danish and British, have repeatedly reported displays of aurora unaccompanied by any special magnetic disturbance. This has been more especially the case when the auroral light has been of a diffused character, showing only minor variability. When there has been much apparent movement, and brilliant changes of colour in the aurora, magnetic disturbance has nearly always accompanied it. In the Arctic, auroral displays seem sometimes to be very local, and this may be the explanation. On the other hand, Arctic observers have reported an apparent connexion of a particularly definite character. According to Paulsen (18), during the Ryder expedition in 1891-1892, the following phenomenon was seen at least twenty times by Lieut. Vedel at Scoresby Sound (70° 27′ N. lat., 26° 10′ W. long.). An auroral curtain travelling with considerable velocity would approach from the south, pass right overhead and retire to the north. As the curtain approached, the compass needle always deviated to the west, oscillated as the curtain passed the zenith, and then deviated to the east. The behaviour of the needle, as Paulsen points out, is exactly what it should be if the space occupied by the auroral curtain were traversed by electric currents directed upwards from the ground. The Danish observers at Tasiusak (10) in 1898-1899 observed this phenomenon occasionally in a slightly altered form. At Tasiusak the auroral curtain after reaching the zenith usually retired in the direction from which it had come. The direction in which the compass needle deviated was west or east, according as the curtain approached from the south or the north; as the curtain retired the deviation eventually diminished.

Kr. Birkeland (19). who has made a special study of magnetic disturbances in the Arctic, proceeding on the hypothesis that they arise from electric currents in the atmosphere, and who has thence attempted to deduce the position and intensity of these currents, asserts that whilst in the case of many storms the data were insufficient, when it was possible to fix the position of the mean line of flow of the hypothetical current relatively to an auroral arc, he invariably found the directions coincident or nearly so.

16. In the northern hemisphere to the south of the zone of greatest frequency, the part of the sky in which aurora most generally appears is the magnetic north. In higher latitudes auroras are most often seen in the south. The relative frequency in the two positions seems to vary with the hour, the type of aurora, probably with the season of the year, and possibly with the position of the year in the sun-spot cycle.

At Jan Mayen (8) in 1882-1883, out of 177 arcs whose position was accurately determined, 44 were seen in the north, their summits averaging 38.5° above the northern horizon; 88 were seen in the south, their average altitude above the southern horizon being 33.5°; while 45 were in the zenith. At Tasiusak (10) in 1898-1899 the magnetic directions of the principal types were noted separately. The results are given in Table VI.


Table VI.

Direction. Absolute Number for each Type. Percentage
from all
Types.
Arcs. Bands. Curtains. Rays. Patches.
N.
N.E.
E.
S.E.
S.
S.W.
W.
N.W.
 9
 9
 3
 5
45
 9
 3
 2
16
13
11
 6
43
 9
11
 8
5
2
2
1
1
2
2
2
15
20
26
10
16
12
22
 8
 4
 4
 3
 7
15
13
 6
 5
10
 9
 9
 6
24
 9
 9
 5


Table VI. accounts for only 81% of the total displays; of the remainder 15% appeared in the zenith, while 4% covered the whole sky. Auroral displays generally cover a considerable area, and are constantly changing, so the figures are necessarily somewhat rough. But clearly, whilst the arcs and bands, and to a lesser extent the patches, showed a marked preference for the magnetic meridian, the rays showed no such preference.

At Cape Thorsden (7) in 1882-1883 auroras as a whole were divided into those seen in the north and those seen in the south. The variation throughout the twenty-four hours in the percentage seen in the south was as follows:—


Hour. 0-3. 3-6. 6-9. 9-12.
a.m.
p.m.
69
55
55
70
44
65
35
65


The mean from the whole twenty-four hours is sixty-three. Between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. the percentage of auroras seen in the south thus appears decidedly below the mean.
17. The following data for the apparent angular width of arcs were obtained at Cape Thorsden, the arcs being grouped according to the height of the lower edge above the horizon. Group I. contained thirty arcs whose altitudes did not exceed 11° 45′; Group II. thirty arcs whose altitudes lay between 12° and 35°; and Group III, thirty arcs whose altitudes lay between 36° and 80°.


Group. I. II. III.
Greatest width.
Least width.
Mean width.
11.5°
 1.0°
   3.45°
12.0°
  0.75°
 4.6°
21.0°
 2.0°
 6.9°


There is here a distinct tendency for the width to increase with the altitude. At the same time, arcs near the horizon often appeared wider than others near the zenith. Furthermore, Gyllensköld says that when arcs mounted, as they not infrequently did, from the horizon, their apparent width might go on increasing right up to the