Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/175

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

though distant extinction of quackery is to be hoped for; it forms a fragment of that final triumph of reason and virtue which is the secret consolation of every philanthropist."


NO one who beheld the great auroral displays of last year can ever forget the impression that they made. They were among the most glorious celestial spectacles that have been witnessed in our latitudes. The first one occurred on the night of Sunday, April 16th. On the afternoon of that day I was watching with a telescope two complicated sun-spots, or groups of spots, one of enormous size, which had made their appearance on the solar disk several days before. My attention had been particularly attracted to these spots, both on account of their great size and because I thought I could perceive changes going on in them under my eyes. After watching them through the afternoon I became satisfied, about an hour before sun-down, that the smaller spot, which was considerably in advance of the other, and was rapidly approaching the sun's meridian, had visibly increased in size while I had been watching it, and that perceptible changes had taken place in the complicated cluster of nuclei constituting the black center of the greater spot. It was evident that a tremendous outburst of solar forces was occurring; but, although I knew of the well-established connection between such convulsions in the sun and the condition of the earth's magnetic elements, I was not prepared for the spectacle that followed.

The sun had been below the horizon only long enough for the lengthening spring twilight to fade from view, when a pale-green arch of light was seen spanning a broad arc of the northern horizon, while above it the mysterious streamers and curtains of the aurora were waving and coruscating in the sky. So quickly had the earth responded to the magnetic impulse from the storm on the sun. The popular excitement caused by this aurora was remarkable, especially among those who were not aware of the nature of the strange illumination in the sky. People gathered in knots at the street-corners, and in the little parks of the city, and gazed wonderingly at the flaming heavens. Many seemed to be seized with a mingled feeling of admiration and dread. I crossed the Fulton Ferry after midnight, when the auroral streamers were yet shooting from horizon to zenith, and Arcturus was shining brilliantly in the center of a complete crown of greenish-yellow light near the zenith. A throng gathered at the bow of the boat to watch the display, which was much more brilliant when