A recent article in the British newspaper The Express titled, “Northern Lights in the UK: Can you watch Aurora Borealis from UK? Where can you see it?” raises interesting questions and comparisons with historical events. It also appears to reinforce the climate forecasts for the next few decades.
Sir Edmund Halley (1656 – 1742) was one of the great astronomers in history. He proved his science in the best way possible by making an accurate prediction. He predicted the return of a comet that they then named after him. I became familiar with his work while working on the climate record of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) at Churchill, Manitoba.
The record was given a great scientific boost when in 1768/9 two astronomers, William Wales and Joseph Dymond arrived in Churchill to measure the Transit of Venus. Halley first identified this event and devised a procedure to gather data to determine the distance of the Earth from the Sun. This distance was critical to accurately testing Newton’s theory of gravity. A Transit occurred in 1761, but lack of knowledge and a useable technique resulted in failure. The 1769 Transit was critical because another Transit would not occur for 105 years.
Sir Neville Maskelyne, President of the Royal Society, sent the astronomers. They brought a range of instruments made specifically for them by the Society to carry out a range of scientific measures including thermometers and barometers. They left them at Churchill where the HBC employees continued to maintain some of the earliest instrumental records in North America.
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