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Southern Lights

5 April 2015

  at http://phys.org/print347186673.html … a nice image of the Southern Lights – aurorae near the South Pole. These have recently been visible from Australia but are apparently a rare occurrence as far north as Brisbane – more usually restricted to Tasmania.

Aurorae can also make strange noises – like rustling grass, or crackling in the undergrowth. The Inuit of the far North say the noises are made by spirits playing a game or trying to communicate with the living – a much better idea than blaming Old Nick or the Jinn. Aborigines in Australia say the noise is like people snapping their fingers – did they have the rhythm? However, they also associated aurorae with some not very nice phenomena such as fire (from the sky), death, blood, and omens of calamity. In that respect there are some similarities with Native American views on auroral manifestations. The Inuit, who had a more common association with auroral events, being almost as frequent as snow and ice in the far north, were more phlegmatic – and did not necessary associate auroral events with disaster. What we seem to have here is a conflation of aurorae with catastrophic events such as meteors, comets, solar outbursts, lightning bolts and so on, based on the fact aurorae are not as common towards the equator than they were in the Arctic Circle.

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