Possible cause of extremely bright aurora witnessed in East Asia on 17 September 1770

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Extremely bright aurora was witnessed in East Asia on 17 September 1770, according to historical documents. The aurora was described as "as bright as a night with full moon" at magnetic latitude of 25°. The aurora was dominated by red color extending from near the horizon up beyond the polar star (corresponding to elevation angle of ~35°). We performed a two‐stream electron transport code to calculate the volume emission rates at 557.7 nm (OI) and 630.0 nm (OI). Two types of distribution of precipitating electrons were assumed. The first one is based on the unusually intense electron flux measured by the DMSP satellite in the March 1989 storm. The distribution consists of hot (peaking at 3 keV) and cold (peaking at 71 eV) components. The second one is the same as the first one, but the hot component is removed. We call this high‐intensity low‐energy electrons (HILEEs). The first spectrum results in an auroral display with a bright, lower green border. The second one results in red‐dominated aurora extending up to the elevation angle of 35° when the equatorward boundary of the electron precipitation is located at 32° invariant latitude. The poleward boundary of the precipitation would be 42° invariant latitude or greater to explain the auroral display extending from near the horizon. The origin of the HILEEs is probably the plasma sheet or the plasmasphere that is transported earthward to L ~ 1.39 due to enhanced magnetospheric convection. Local heating or acceleration is also plausible.


  • Space Weather

    Space Weather 15(10), 1373-1382, 2017-10

    American Geophysical Union (AGU)


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