Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/568

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light, however—unlike comets—were more brilliant at their bases, less so at their apices. Their bases were directed upwards, their points down. They were constantly changing, appearing and disappearing, but not very rapidly. Some would remain a minute or more without much variation. The number varied from ten to fifteen. They were shorter toward the zenith, longer toward the horizon. At the western end of the arch, one long half-luminous streak shot up obliquely (as shown in the figure) and remained for some minutes after the arch itself had disappeared. The arch lasted from 9.30 to nearly 10 p.m.

In size the comet-like pendants appeared about as wide at their bases as the diameter of a full moon, and four or five times such a diameter in length. I reach this estimate by comparing my own conception with those of several others who made observations at the same time.

It should be noted that no visible connection existed between the arch and the nebulous masses and streaks of light near the northern horizon.

In looking at the diagram the reader may well conceive it to be too toy-like and artificial to come within the range of truth or possibility, but so was the arch itself. No one could have conceived such a display to be either natural or possible. To some it suggested a festive arch adorned with luminous cornucopias, like a Christmas decoration. Those of us who a few weeks before had obtained telescopic views of Barelli's comet with some difficulty, seemed now to be rewarded by nature exhibiting a whole string of far more brilliant comets for our special delectation. The kind and degree of luminosity appeared to be almost exactly like that of the comet when seen through a good glass.

The splendor and magnificence of the display were beyond description; startlingly beautiful. The spectacle seemed almost to overstep the modesty of nature, but its coming unheralded during the majestic silence of the night served to banish so unjust a thought. Surprise, delight, admiration and awe—these were the feelings that thrilled with pleasure those of us who witnessed the sublime and mysterious scene—a scene that few of us will ever see again.

The last we saw of this aurora was at midnight when a diffuse light behind a low bank of cloud near the northern horizon gave the appearance as of a moon about to rise. But a medical acquaintance—Dr. S. W. Allen—who was out at 2 a.m. saw shimmering waves of iridescent light streaming radially upwards from the horizon towards a central point at the zenith, a not very unusual phenomenon which many of us have seen once or more during the last half century.

Auroral arches from east to west have been observed in the Arctic regions; double and triple ones are recorded by Mr. E. B. Baldwin in Peary's 'Northward over the Great Ice,' vol. 2, p. 191 et seq., but in this country they are certainly very unusual. Baldwin describes one in which the arch formed itself into a luminous curtain, and the curtain folds knotted 'themselves into a series of electric balls suspended in the same arch-order' (p. 198). These globes of light may have had some approaching resemblance to the comet-like pennants of light I have endeavored to describe.

A. F. A. King.


To the Editor: In the first two paragraphs of Sir Oliver Lodge's admirable address entitled 'Modern Views on Matter,' published in the August number of this journal, he alludes to a distinction between the scientific aspects and the philosophical aspects of his subject and hastens to disclaim any qualifications for discussing the lat-