19th century auroral observations reveal solar activity patterns



Growing interest in the aurora in the early part of the eighteenth century, which resulted from the spectacular reappearance of the aurora in 1707 and 1716, followed a relative scarcity of great auroras during the Maunder minimum, a period of prolonged reduced solar activity from about 1645–1715. Observations in the early eighteenth century led to questions about the geographical extent, nature, and temporal variability of the auroras. Typically, such observations were included as part of recorded meteorological notations, though occasionally early astronomers, such as Tycho Brahe in the 1590s, included auroras in their observations. Meteorological observations were important because of the effects of weather and climate on agriculture, and, according to the belief at the time, on disease.