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No. 115: Jan-Feb 1998

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August 28, 1916. Canada.

"The usual Northern Lights were feeble, but at half past ten there grew in the sky an immense arc or ribbon of light -- practically a complete semicircle -- stretching from a point on the horizon practically due east nearly up to the zenith, but a little to the south of it, and passing down practically to the western point of the horizon. Throngs of people gathered to see it and according to their account the like was never seen before. It was a fairly uniform band of light of about the same width as the rainbow. Its definiteness was surprising, there was very little fading away at the edges; it was as if a paint brush had been drawn across the sky...For about an hour it arched the sky and during that time it was noticeably fixed relative to the earth, for some of the stars as they got higher in the east crossed it from the northern or convex side to the other."

(Anonymous; "Great Auroral Displays," Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Journal, 10:469, 1916.)

Comment. This sharp and precisely drawn arc is so different from the swaying draperies, pulsing arcs, and "merry dancers" that characterize the usual auroral displays. We have not seen any good explanation of this phenomenon. More examples may be found in GLA2 in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras.

Sky-spanning auroral arch off the coast of Maine A sky-spanning auroral arch with penants seen off the coast of Maine. A more typical aurora occurred within the arch.

From Science Frontiers #115, JAN-FEB 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987