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Astronomy

Since time immemorial, through different cultures and whenever they occur, there have been many beliefs about the northern lights. The Inuit around Hudson Bay had the following explanation of what they saw:
The sky is a huge dome of hard material arched over the flat earth. On the outside there is light. In the dome there are a large number of small holes, and trough these holes you can see the light from the outside when it is dark. And trough these holes the spirits of the dead can pass into the heavenly regions. The way to heaven leads over a narrow bridge which spans an enormous abyss. The spirits that were already in heaven light torches to guide the feet of the new arrivals. These torches are called the northern lights
In Middle-Age Europe, the northern lights were thought to be reflections of heavenly warriors. As a kind of posthumous reward, the soldiers that gave their lives for their king and country were allowed to battle on the skies forever. The northern lights were the breath of these brave soldiers as they resumed their fight in the skies.
Fig.2.Northern lights over Nuremberg in Germany in 1591.
Otherwise the northern lights were a sign of omen. They warned of illness, plague and death. When red, which is the most common colour at low latitudes, they signalled the outbreak of war.
No such omens are known in North Norway. Up here, people’s conceptions were more characterized by awe for this mighty phenomenon. One should tread carefully and in no way should the northern lights be intimidated by waving, whistling, staring or any other form of defiane.
Fig. 3. Woodcut made by Fridjof Nansen. Based on a sketch from 1883.
Already several centuries before Christ time, detailed descriptions and explanations were put forward. In his book Metereologia, Aristoteles described the northern lights as a light which resembled the flames of burning gas. if these flames spread and at the same time sent out sparks and …

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