Tag Archives: Northern Lights

Luke Howard’s aurora sightings

Luke Howard‘s Climate of London volumes provide a plethora of interesting facts and figures about the atmosphere during a time when few reliable records of London weather were made.

Over a period of just over 20 years he mentions the aurora borealis being sighted somewhere in Britain 15 times.

The first, on March 3rd 1807, describes the phenomenon.

The whole hemisphere very red for some time after sunset which we ascribed to the reflection of light from elevated cirri. Our Manchester correspondent, however, states the same phenomenon at the same time as an Aurora Borealis. Additional communications decisive of this point will be acceptable. The phenomenon was repeated on the 21st which with the preceding and following night was windy.

Seven years later, on April 14th 1814, proceedings were described thus.

Aurora Borealis of late years a very unfrequent visitant in these parts appeared last night with no great degree of splendour but with the usual characteristic marks of this phenomenon. About 11pm when my attention was first called to it there was a body of white light in part intercepted by clouds extending at a moderate elevation from the N to the NW with a short broad streamer rising from each extremity. After this it became an arch composed of similar vertical masses of fibrous light which moved along in succession preserving their polarity and curved arrangement. One large streamer in particular went rapidly through nearly the whole length of the arch from W to E. Some of these masses were rather brilliant and one exhibited colours. After some cessation and a repetition of this appearance carried more towards E and W the light settled in the N and grew fainter in which situation at midnight I ceased to observe it 

Further mention is made on 8th February 1817 and later that year, on 26th October, another account.

A little before 8pm I observed from the neighbourhood of Lowestoft, Suffolk, a distinct commencement of Aurora Borealis in the north in white streamers ascending to a considerable elevation which after a minute or two became converted into a still light the latter remaining for an hour or two after was at length obscured by clouds.

And the same year, as shown in the book.

More sightings were recorded on 12th and 17th October 1819 and 14th December of the same year. Also 31st July 1821.

Six years later, on 18th january 1827, an account of the Northern Lights in Epping Forest was noted.

The final case of the aurora of London was made on 25th September 1827.

Further records were noted on 15th September 1828 in Glasgow and 11th December 1830 at Ackworth, Yorkshire