Who discovered the northern lights ?

Who Discovered The Northern Lights?

The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, has been both a mystery and a fascinating phenomenon since its discovery. Aurora borealis is a natural light display that is usually seen in the night sky in the northern hemisphere. It has captivated people for centuries, and its scientific nature was not fully understood until the 19th century. In this article, we will explore who discovered the northern lights and how their observations began to unveil the science behind the lights.

The Ancient Myths

The aurora borealis has been a part of human life for millennia, but until scientific knowledge improved, they were shrouded in mystery. Ancient myths and legends abound regarding the northern lights. For example, ancient Inuit believed the lights were spirits protecting their families and Inuit shamans believed they were messages from the gods. Ancient Chinese saw them as a sign that the gods were angry and some even believed them to be dragons. This mythological understanding of the lights was pervasive but lacked scientific knowledge.

The Scientific Revolution

It was not until the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution that scientists began to unravel the mysteries of the northern lights. In 1560, a Danish astronomer named Tycho Brahe observed the aurora borealis and recorded his observations. He wrote that the lights had an ethereal, unearthly appearance, and speculated that they were a result of the sun’s influence.

In 1619, French philosopher and scientist Pierre Gassendi observed the northern lights in Northern France. He noted that the lights had different colors, which changed throughout the night. This was the first evidence that the lights were affected by the shifting positions of the sun and stars.

In 1741, the British explorer Edmund Halley published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In this paper, Halley again speculated that the aurora borealis was caused by the sun’s influence. He suggested that a coronal discharge around the sun’s equator could create magnetic fields and protons that would be released in the upper atmosphere.

Modern Understanding

Today, we have a much better understanding of the northern lights. We now know that the aurora borealis occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and interact with the planet’s magnetic field. This results in the emission of light in the visible spectrum.

The northern lights occur in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, with the most intense displays occurring in the far north and far south. They come in a variety of colors, including green, pink, purple, and blue. They can occur in a variety of shapes, including curtains, spirals, and arcs.


The aurora borealis is an amazing phenomenon that has captivated people for centuries. Although ancient myths and legends abound regarding the northern lights, it was not until the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution that scientists began to unravel the mysteries of the lights. Tycho Brahe, Pierre Gassendi, and Edmund Halley were some of the first to observe and record observations of the aurora borealis, paving the way for our modern understanding of the lights.

  • Northern Lights
  • Aurora borealis
  • Tycho Brahe
  • Pierre Gassendi
  • Edmund Halley
  • Magnetic Field
  • Electrically Charged Particles
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London

The three main keywords for this article are Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, and Scientific Revolution.

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