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Aristotle Explains the Lights

Over 2000 years ago, there were detailed descriptions and explanations of the Northern Lights (or, as they much later became known as, "auroras").

In his book "Meteorology", written over 2,350 years ago, Aristotle (384-322 BCE*) described them as a light which resembled the flames of burning gas. If these flames spread and at the same time sent out sparks and rays, they were called "jumping goats".

The ancient Greek scholar observed: "Sometimes on a fine night we see a variety of appearances that form in the sky: 'chasms' for instance and 'trenches' and blood-red colors... For a weak light shining through a dense air, and the air when it acts as a mirror, will cause all kinds of colors to appear, but especially crimson and purple.

"'Chasms' get their appearance of depth from light breaking out of a dark blue or black mass of air. When the process of condensation goes further in such a case we often find 'torches' ejected. When the 'chasm' contracts it presents the appearance of a 'trench'."

* Before Common Era

PICTURE: Plato and Aristotle (R) seem to be discussing the sky.

Northern Lights SLIDE SHOW

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