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No. 121: Jan-Feb 1999

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Tunguska Afterglow

June 30, July 1-3, 1908. England. We quote from a London cable to the New York Times.

"Several nights through the week were marked by strange atmospheric effects which Dr. Norman Lockyer of the South Kensington Solar Physics Laboratory believes to be a display of the aurora borealis, though personally I have not observed any colored streamers.
"Following sunsets of exceptional beauty and twilight effects remarkable even in England, the northern sky at midnight became light blue, as if the dawn were breaking, and the clouds were touched with pink, in so marked a fashion that police headquarters was rung up by several people, who believed a big fire was raging in the north of London."

(Anonymous; "Like Dawn at Midnight," New York Times, July 5, 1908. Cr. M. Piechota)

Comment. Actually, all of northern Europe saw a succession of very bright nights beginning June 30, 1908. It was even possible to take photographs at midnight. The cause was not the aurora borealis but rather the Tunguska Event (Siberian Meteor) of June 30, 1908. Of course, Western Europe did not know what had happened in Siberia for years. Terrestrial dust from the Tunguska Event that was blasted into the upper atmosphere or perhaps particulate matter accompanying the impacting object (probably a comet) was apparently the cause of the nightime airglow.

From Science Frontiers #121, JAN-FEB 1999. 1999-2000 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