Shedding light on the aurora



For want of cameras, electronic monitoring, and computer analysis, scientists turn to literature for descriptions of the aurora borealis of the Viking era. Some of those who turned to Norse literature say that the writings between 700 and 1200 A.D. refer directly to the aurora, but two geophysicists from Norway disagree. A. Brekke at the University of Tromsø and A. Egeland at the University of Oslo say that surprisingly little direct evidence of the aurora is woven into the literature. Some of what has been interpreted as reference to the aurora is a misinterpretation. A correct interpretation, they say, ‘can shed new light on our knowledge about solar activity, the geomagnetic field, and the auroral oval.’