Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
04 Jan 2011
 | 04 Jan 2011

Danish auroral science history

P. Stauning

Abstract. Danish auroral science history begins with the early auroral observations made by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe during the years from 1582 to 1601 preceding the Maunder minimum in solar activity. Included are also the brilliant observations made by another astronomer, Ole Rømer, from Copenhagen in 1707, as well as the early auroral observations made from Greenland by missionaries during the 18th and 19th centuries. The relations between auroras and geomagnetic variations were analysed by H. C. Ørsted, who also played a vital role in the development of Danish meteorology that came to include comprehensive auroral observations from Denmark, Iceland and Greenland as well as auroral and geomagnetic research. The very important auroral investigations made by Sophus Tromholt are outlined. His analysis from 1880 of auroral observations from Greenland prepared for the significant contributions from the Danish Meteorological Institute, DMI, (founded in 1872) to the first International Polar Year 1882/83, where an expedition headed by Adam Paulsen was sent to Greenland to conduct auroral and geomagnetic observations. Paulsen's analyses of the collected data gave many important results but also raised many new questions that gave rise to auroral expeditions to Iceland in 1899 to 1900 and to Finland in 1900 to 1901. Among the results from these expeditions were 26 unique paintings of the auroras made by the artist painter, Harald Moltke. The expedition to Finland was headed by Dan la Cour, who later as director of the DMI came to be in charge of the comprehensive international geomagnetic and auroral observations made during the Second International Polar Year in 1932/33. Finally, the article describes the important investigations made by Knud Lassen during, among others, the International Geophysical Year 1957/58 and during the International Quiet Sun Year (IQSY) in 1964/65. With his leadership the auroral and geomagnetic research at DMI reached a high international level that came to be the background for the first Danish satellite, Ørsted, successfully launched in 1999 and still in operation.