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Earliest Datable Records of Aurora-like Phenomena in the Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia

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The Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia (ADB) are an excellent source of information of natural phenomena, including astronomical ones, in pre-Christ era because it contains the record of highly continuous and systematic observations. In this article we present results of a survey of aurora-like phenomena in ADB, spanning from BCE 652 to BCE 61. We have found 9 records of aurora-like phenomena. Philological and scientific examinations suggest 5 of them can be considered as likely candidate for aurora observations. They provide unique information about the solar and aurora activities in the first millennium BCE.
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Earliest Datable Records of Aurora-like Phenomena in the
Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia
Author #1: Hisashi Hayakawa, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan,
hayakawa@kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Author #2: Yasuyuki Mitsuma, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo,
Tokyo, Japan, licorne@soleil.ocn.ne.jp
Author #3: Yusuke Ebihara, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University;
Unit of Synergetic Studies for Space, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, ebihara@rish.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Author #4: Akito Davis Kawamura, Kwasan Observatory, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan,
akitodk@kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Author #5: Hiroko Miyahara, Musashino Art University, Tokyo, Japan, miyahara@musabi.ac.jp
Author #6: Harufumi Tamazawa, Kwasan Observatory, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan,
tamazawa@kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Author #7: Hiroaki Isobe, Unit of Synergetic Studies for Space, Kyoto University; Graduate School
of Advanced Integrated Studies for Human Survivability, Kyoto University, Japan,
isobe@kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp
ABSTRACT
The Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia (ADB) are an excellent source of information of natural
phenomena, including astronomical ones, in pre-Christ era because it contains the record of highly
continuous and systematic observations. In this article we present results of a survey of aurora-like
phenomena in ADB, spanning from BCE 652 to BCE 61. We have found 9 records of aurora-like
phenomena. Philological and scientific examinations suggest 5 of them can be considered as likely
candidate for aurora observations. They provide unique information about the solar and aurora
activities in the first millennium BCE.
Keywords: history of astronomy, surveys, solar flares, CMEs, solar activity, astronomical diaries
from Babylonia
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1. INTRODUCTION
The solar activity has been monitored by telescopic observations of sunspots for more than 400 years
(Zolotova & Ponyavin 2015; Vaquero & Vázquez 2009; Owens 2013). Reconstructing the earlier
solar activity has been of great interest from the viewpoints of the long-term variation of solar
magnetism and its effect on the Earth climate (Haigh 2007; Miyahara 2008; Hathaway 2010;
Usoskin 2013b). One common way to reconstruct the past solar activity is the analysis of
cosmogenic radioisotopes such as carbon-14 content in tree rings and beryllium-10 in ice cores
(Steinhilber et al. 2009).
Records in historical documents provide another way to investigate the solar activity in the
pre-telescopic era (Willis et al. 1996; Vaquero & Vázquez 2009; Usoskin et al. 2007; Usoskin 2013b;
Hayakawa et al. 2016b; 2016c, submitted). Eddy (1977b, 1980) and Vaquero & Vázquez (2009)
even claim that historical documents can offer us data with more precise date than radioactive
isotopes.
Chinese official histories (Yau et al. 1988; Yau et al. 1995; Xu et al. 2000; Hayakawa et al. 2015;
Kawamura et al. 2016; Hayakawa et al. 2016d, submitted) and Korean official histories (Lee et al.
2004) are especially suitable source documents for the purpose of studying the long-term variation
because these sources provide well-formatted records based on continuous observations by
professional astronomers (Keimatsu 1976; Hayakawa et al. 2015).
Recently, the past solar activity is also attracting the interest from the viewpoint of extreme space
weather (e.g., Tsurutani et al. 2003; Schrijver et al. 2012) particularly after the discoveries of
“superflares” in solar-type stars (Maehara et al. 2012; Shibayama et al. 2013; Maehara at al. 2015) as
well as the sharp increase of cosmogenic radioisotopes in tree rings around CE775 and CE994
(Miyake et al. 2012; 2013; Mekhaldi et al. 2015), for which one of possible causes are suggested to
be large solar flares. The discoveries of superflares in solar-type stars posed the question whether
such extremely intense solar flares and space weather events can occur in our Sun (e.g., Shibata et al.
2013; Aulanier et al. 2013).
The most intense solar flare throughout the history of telescopic observation is believed to be
so-called Carrington event (Carrington 1859; Tsurutani et al. 2003; Cliver & Dietrich 2013). It was
associated with worldwide aurora observations by amateur observers, even at low geomagnetic
latitudes (Loomis 1859-65; Kimball 1960; Nakazawa et al. 2005; Green & Boardsen 2006;
Hayakawa et al. 2016b). A sharp spike of nitrate in polar ice cores has also been found associated
with this event (McCracken et al. 2001), although the usage of nitrate as an index of solar flares is
debated (Wolff et al. 2012). Searches for the historical records corresponding to the cosmic ray event
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in CE775 and CE994 (Miyake et al. 2012; 2013) have been carried out by several groups (Usoskin et
al. 2013a; Chapman et al. 2015; Stephenson 2015; Hayakawa et al. 2016a; Hayakawa et al. 2016e,
submitted).
From the viewpoint of the history of science, it is also interesting to investigate how far back we
can trace the solar and space weather events using historical records. Previously, the oldest record
was thought to be a Chinese record from BCE 193 (Yau et al. 1995). However, Stephenson & Willis
(2002) as well as Stephenson et al. (2004) found a much earlier record from BCE 567 within the
Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia (ADB) to be the oldest observation of aurora in the world and
the sole aurora observation in ADB.
In this article, we made further careful examinations of ADB in order to search for the potential
records of an aurora and hence to obtain insights into the aurora observations and records in
pre-Christ era that were not previously well known due to the shortage of historical documents.
2. Astronomical Diaries from Babylonia
ADB is a series of Akkadian cuneiform texts inscribed on clay tablets. Most of the tablets were
rediscovered in excavations at the site of Babylon in the late 19th century and now preserved in the
British Museum, London. Contemporarily, each text of these tablets was titled regular observation
(naṣāru (EN.NUN) šá gi-né-e).These records were mostly written and compiled by the families of
astronomer-astrologers (ṭupšar Enūma Anu Enlil) sponsored by the assembly of Esangil, the temple
of god Marduk in Babylon (N 32°33, E 44°26) (Mitsuma 2012; Mitsuma 2015). The scholars
compiled the diaries from generation to generation, at least from the mid-seventh to the mid-first
centuries BC. Toward the mid-third century BC, they fixed the format of the diaries, especially of
the so-called "Longer Diaries" or "Standard Diaries."
Each tablet of the standard diaries covers half a year, i.e. six months or seven months if an
intercalary month is included, or a third of a year, i.e. four months or five months including an
intercalary month. Horizontal rulings divide each tablet into four, five, six or seven sections,
according to its coverage. Each section covers a month, and its entries are arranged into subjects in
the following order; daily report of the sky, price list of commodities, summary of the positions of
the visible planets, level of the Euphrates, and unusual historical event(s).
In this article we mainly examine the daily sky reports of ADB. They use consistent terminology
and have a consistent set of criteria for the choice of what should be recorded. Their observations
were carried out continuously as the original title of the diary tablet suggests. The
astronomer-astrologers inserted a passage “I did not watch (NU PAP), when they could not make
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their observations (Sachs & Hunger 1988; Mitsuma 2009).
Importantly, we have only fragments of the original ADB series, so our analysis is limited.
Although the earliest known tablet in the ADB dates from BCE 652 and the latest up to BCE 61, we
have not unearthed or reconstructed all tablets for every month. We have at most 5-10 % of the
estimated original complete ADB series (Stephenson et al. 2004; see also Sachs 1974). Future
reconstruction and deciphering of undated clay tablets could improve this situation at least partially.
3. METHOD
3.1. Target keywords and text survey
Within the ADB, we surveyed records that include descriptions of uncategorized luminous
phenomena in the sky, excluding the keywords whose meanings are well known, such as “fall of fire,
lightning strike (miqitti išāti)”, “lightning (birqu)”, “thunder (rigim Adad)”, “meteor (kakkabu rabû)”,
“comet (allam)”, “halo (TÙR/tarbau)”, or normal “rainbow (TIR.AN / manzât)” shown in the
introduction of Sachs & Hunger (1988).
We first surveyed the critical editions of ADB published by Sachs & Hunger (1988, 1989, 1996)
and by Hunger & van der Spek (2006). They edited the transliterations of Akkadian texts from all
the ADB tablets whose dates became clear by 2006. We then examined the colour photos recently
taken by one of the authors (Y Mitsuma) at the British Museum, and copies made by EF Weidner
and TG Pinches.
3.2. Date conversion
The Babylonian calendar was a lunisolar calendar. One year consists of 12 lunar months (aru) or 13
lunar months including an intercalary month. Each day starts at sunset, as is the case in the Bible
(Parker & Dubberstein 1956, 26; Sachs & Hunger 1988, 15), each month starts when a new crescent
moon is observed, and each year starts at the month around the vernal equinox. The Julian dates of
the beginnings of Babylonian months covered by the diaries were calculated by Parker &
Dubberstein (1956) and by Sachs & Hunger (1988, 1989, 1996), except for those in BCE651, the
oldest diary known to us. Note that these conversion tables only cover up to BCE626. We follow the
procedure by Sachs & Hunger to convert Babylonian dates in this article. Based on the converted
dates, we computed normalized lunar ages according to the algorithm of Kawamura et al. (2016) that
employs the interactive data language (IDL) programs in the astronomy user IDL library of
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (Landsman 1993) and our program developed for numerically
determining the minimum of lunar luminosity.
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4. Result
In total, we found nine candidates of aurora observations recorded in the ADB. Those we found are
shown with their ID numbers, keywords, references, dates in Julian calendar, normalized lunar ages,
dates in Babylonian calendar, transliterations of Akkadian texts, and English translations. The
notation "-n" such as -651 in every entry is the text number of the diaries published by Sachs &
Hunger (1988, 1989, 1996) and Hunger & van der Spek (2006). In the section of Babylonian date,
“n/n-1 BC” is used to show the Julian equivalent to a Babylonian year. Babylonian months are
shown with roman numerals. For the convention used to indicate a part of a diary, see Sachs &
Hunger (1988, 3638).
#1: manzât / (very red) rainbow
Reference: -651 (BM 32312) Col. iv 20': The text was checked using a recently taken photo of the
tablet (Copy: Figure 1).
Date in Julian Calendar: ?? ?? BCE 651
Normalized lunar age: n/a
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 652/651. XII. 28
Transliteration: 28 ŠÈG i ina KIN.SIG TIR ma-diš SA5 ina KUR GIB
Translation: The 28th, a little rain. In the afternoon, a very red rainbow stretched in the east.
#2: akukūtu / red glow
Reference: -567 (VAT 4956) 'Rev. 10': The text was checked using the copy of the tablet made by
EF Weidner, attached as Plate 17 to van der Waerden (19521953).
Date in Julian Calendar: 12/13 March BCE 567
Normalized lunar age: 0.003
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 568/567. XI. 29
Transliteration: GE6 29 a-ku6-ku6-{ku6}-tu4 ina ŠÚ KUR 2 DA[NNA ....]
Translation: Night of the 29th, red glow flared up in the west; 2 double[-hour ....]
#3: manzât / rainbow (before sunrise)
Reference: -384 (BM 34634) 'Obv. 4': The text was checked using a recently taken photo of the
tablet (Copy: Figure 2).
Date in Julian Calendar: 8/9 or 9/10 December BCE 385
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Normalized lunar age: 0.260 or 0.294
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 385/384. IX. 8 or 9
Transliteration: [....] la-am KUR-a TIR.AN Á SI u MAR ˹GIB˺ [....]
Translation: [....] before (sun)rise, a rainbow stretched in the northwest direction [....]
#4: dipāru / torch
Reference: -165A (BM 32844) 'Rev.' 10'11' (according to the reconstruction by Sachs & Hunger
1989, 489)
Date in Julian Calendar: 16/17 September BCE 166
Normalized lunar age: 0.142
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 166/165. VI. 4
Transliteration: [4 ina še-] IZI.GAR TA ULÙ ana SI DIB-ma UD-DA-su [....]
Translation: [The 4th, in the morning,] a “torch” crossed (the sky) from the south to the north, and
its bright light [....]
#5: sūmu / redness
Reference: -144 (BM 34609 [+] 34788 + 77617 + 78958) 'Obv. 33'34': The text was checked with
a recently taken photo of the tablet (Copy: Figure 3a, 3b).
Date in Julian Calendar: 21/22 September19/20 October BCE 145
Normalized lunar age: n/a
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 145/144. VII
Transliteration: ITI BI su-um i-a [ina GI]Š.NIM u GIŠ.ŠÚ GAR.GAR-an
Translation: That month, a little redness was found repeatedly in the east and in the west.
#6: sūmu / redness
Reference: -143A (BM 34045) 'Flake' 21': The text was checked with the copy of TG Pinches,
published by Sachs & Hunger (1996, Plate 190).
Date in Julian Calendar: 12/13 July-10/11 August BCE 144
Normalized lunar age: n/a
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 144/143. IV
Transliteration: ITI BI su-um [ina] GIŠ.NIM u GIŠ.ŠÚ GAR.GAR-an
Translation: That month, redness was found repeatedly in the east and in the west.
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#7: dipāru / torch
Reference: -136B (BM 45745) 'Obv.' 4'-5' (according to the reconstruction by Sachs & Hunger 1996,
182)
Date in Julian Calendar: 10/11 or 11/12 November BCE 137
Normalized lunar age: 0.710 or 0.743
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 137/136. VIII. 20 or 21
Transliteration: ˹20˺ [.... GE6 21? ….] ˹GIM˺ IZI.GAR SAR-u UD.DA-[su] ˹x˺ GAL IGI--át
Translation: The 20th, [.... Night of the 21st (?) ….] flared up like a torch, [its] bright light was
seen.
#8: manzât / (red) rainbow
Reference: -122A (BM 45998 + 46049) 'Obv.' 11' (according to the reconstruction by Sachs &
Hunger 1996, 290)
Date in Julian Calendar: 28/29 or 29/30 April BCE 123
Normalized lunar age: 0.210 or 0.244
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 123/122. II. 6/7
Transliteration: [x x] ˹ù?˺ ŠÚ šá sin dTIR.AN.NA šá MÚŠmeš-šú SUD TA SI ana Á ULÙ [GIB ....]
Translation: [....] and (?) setting of the moon, a rainbow whose shine was red [stretched] from the
north to the south side [....]
#9: dipāru / torch
Reference: -118A (BM 41693) 'Rev. 10': The text was checked using the copy of TG Pinches,
published by Sachs & Hunger (1996, Plates 249251)
Date in Julian Calendar: 24/25 October BCE 119
Normalized lunar age: 0.754
Date in Babylonian Calendar: BCE 119/118. VII. 22
Transliteration: [.... SAG] GE6 IZI.GAR TA KUR ana MAR SUR-ma SUR-šú ma-gal BABBAR
Translation: [.... beginning] of the night, a torch flashed from east to west, and its flash was very
white.
5. Discussion
In our survey of the ADB, we found nine records that can be considered as the candidates for aurora
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observations. They can be categorized using the following keywords: unusual “rainbow
(TIR.AN/manzât)” (#1, 3, 8), “red glow (akukūtu)” (#2), “redness (sūmu)” (#5, 6), and “torch
(IZI.GAR/dipāru)” (#4, 7, 9).
5.1. Red glow: akukūtu
The record #2 is the well-known record from Stephenson et al. (2004), where the term was
introduced and examined philologically and scientifically. The term akukūtu means “flame, blaze” or
“red glow in the sky (as a rare meteorological phenomenon)” (CAD: I-1, p285). It is the second
meaning that appears in this sentence. CAD (The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago) relates this term to aurora as well.
Stephenson et al. (2004) made a positive interpretation of #2 because its last signs - 2 DANNA -
“2 double hours” indicate the duration of the phenomenon and there is no other light source that can
supply red light for as long as 4 hours. Their conclusion can be reinforced with the flat topography in
Babylonia. Babylon is located in the alluvial plain caused by the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, in an
area with no mountains until the Zagros Mountains about 180 km away in the northeast. Its weather
is very dry, allowing few trees to grow. This means there is nowhere that a mountain fire or
long-lasting light can be caused on the ground.
5.2. Unusual rainbow: TIR.AN (manzât)
(d)TIR.AN(.NA) (manzât) of #3, and #8 usually means as “rainbow” or “a name of staror
sometimes as “halo” with a subsequent description such as “surrounding the sun/moon” (CAD, X-1,
pp230-232). #1 shows TIR. It seems to be an abbreviated form of TIR.AN and is followed by the
words ma-diš SA5 “very red,” as is suggested by the comment of Sachs & Hunger (1988, p46) to #1.
manzât was used with the verb GIB (parāku) “stretch” in #1 and #3, and the same verb may be
restored in #8. These “rainbows” appear “stretched” in the sky with a red colour (#1, #8), or at night
(#3, #8). Since these appearances do not match the nature of normal rainbows, manzât in #1, #3, and
#8 seem to have been something different.
The unusual “rainbow” or TIR.AN in #3 was observed “before sunrise.The lunar age of this
event is about 0.3 with the moon at about the waxing quarter, and the moon had already set at this
time “before sunrise.” Therefore, moonbow or any other moon-related atmospheric optical
phenomenon cannot explain this event. Considering that this event was seen in the northern direction,
which is usual for low-latitude auroras, it is reasonable to leave this record as the candidate for an
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aurora observation.
The term dTIR.AN.NA (manzât) in #8 is recorded after the “setting of the moon”. The exact
observational date is broken in the original tablet. However, this record is located between the record
for BCE 123/122. II. 5 and that for BCE 123/122. II. 8 and thus can be located on II. 6/7, namely on
28/29 or 29/30 April BCE 123. Its moon phase is 0.227 or 0.261 and thus the moon was
approximately in its waxing quarter. This means “after moonset” was equivalent to just after
midnight. This red “rainbow” may be regarded as an auroral arc elongated “from north to south”
across the sky.
The unusual “rainbow” or TIR in #1 was also red in colour. Unfortunately the Julian date of this
record (BCE 652/651. XII. 28) was not calculated by Sachs & Hunger (1988) nor by Parker &
Dubberstein (1956). Despite its abnormality, this record is very unlikely to represent aurora due to
the observation time being “in the afternoon (KIN.SIG)”. Red rainbows can be observed especially
at the time of twilight when red-coloured light from the sun gets refracted by waterdrops. The “rain”
immediately before this phenomenon might have supplied the water-drops to cause rainbows in the
quite dry weather in Babylonia.
Nevertheless we should note two historical reports for luminescence phenomena observed in the
day time in a huge magnetic storm, namely in the Carrington event. Loomis (1860b) cited a letter
from Lieut. N. Home to describe aurora observation at Halifax on 28 August 1859. At 17:00, “a long
narrow belt of cloud from E. to W. having a peculiar orange-white appearance” was seen, and at
20:00 “this cloud suddenly became luminous at its eastern extremity”. This cloud is unlikely to have
been aurora in the day time, but we cannot rule out the possibility that it was aurora.
Meanwhile, “unusual rainbow” can sometimes be related to bow-shaped auroras worldwide. A
Norwegian drawing for aurora on 26 November 1710 was drawn like a rainbow in Ramus (1745)
and Chinese historians reported some auroras as “white/unusual rainbow” in their official histories
as highlighted by Hayakawa et al. (2016a).
5.3. Redness: sūmu
The term sūmu used in #5 and #6 means “redness, red glow” or “red spot”. While the term in the
latter meaning is used for red spots on the body, the term in the former meaning is used in
astronomical contexts (CAD: XV, pp381383). The sūmu of #5 and #6 were probably celestial
events, although they appear not in reports of celestial events but in reports of historical events.
Those observations of redness” might have been considered as omens for historical events and
recorded with them. Another celestial event, for example, lightning strike (miqitti išāti), is often
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inserted into the historical parts of the diaries and seems to have an ominous significance (Pirngruber
2013).
These terms of “redness” are used almost in the same expression with the signs GAR.GAR-an,
which represents the Akkadian verb ittaškan, Ntn, i.e. passive habitative-iterative (Caplice & Snell
2002: pp.51-52), preterite of šakānu “to place.This indicates that the “redness” of #5 and #6
appeared repeatedly.
These philological analyses show us that “redness” appeared repeatedly in the same month in
both cases. This phrase may describe low-latitude auroras whose movement is quite slow and which
thus seem to remain in the same place for a long time. During the Halloween storm (October 29-31,
2003), aurora observations were made for 3 successive nights (Shiokawa et al., 2005). Alternatively,
this phrase is likely to describe a stable red auroral (SAR) arc that can be seen as red, faint lights.
Data from optical imaging on board Dynamics Explorer 1 show a SAR arc lasting for 28 hours
(Craven et al., 1982). In fact, auroras can appear repeatedly for several days when complex active
regions on the sun continue to launch multiple coronal mass ejections. At the Carrington event, the
strong magnetic storms brought a cluster of auroras to the earth from 1859/08/28 to 09/04 (Loomis
1859-65; Kimball 1960; Green & Boardsen 2005; Hayakawa et al. 2016b). In September 1770, a
series of aurora observation were made in East Asia for at least three days straight (Willis et al.
1996; Kawamura et al. 2016). These records (both #5 & #6) suggest the possibility of strong solar
activity in BCE 145-144. In summary, although it is slightly mysterious that they appeared in the
east and west, these records are not contradictory with aurora records.
5.4. Torches: IZI.GAR (dipāru)
This term “IZI.GAR (dipāru)” from records #4, #7, and #9 means “torch” (CAD: III, pp156157).
The phrase ḫakukūtu, which is like dipāru appears once in a divination text (Virolleaud 1911
1912, no.107:3).
Record #4 involves a verb DIB (etēqu)”. This is a motion verb meaning “to pass/go along”
(CAD: IV, p384; Sachs & Hunger 1988, p30). This means that the “torch” in #4 moved from south
to north and is probably a meteor or a fireball. If we interpret this record as aurora, we could relate
this with expansion and contraction of the aurora oval.
Phenomenon of record #9 has an extension from east to west. The problem is to identify if this is
with motion. Its verb SUR (ṣarāḫu)” means “to light up,” to flare up, or to display a sudden
luminosity” (CAD: XVI, p100). This verb itself does not provide an answer to our question whether
this recorded phenomenon appeared without motion. There is a possibility that this is aurora. Bright
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aurora looks white or greenish white because it consists of emissions from O (green colour) and
from N2 and N2+ (red and blue colours). After auroral breakups, bright aurora expands toward the
north and west. The leading edge of the bright aurora is called a westward traveling surge. The
westward traveling surge moves westward, but it is unclear if such an elongated structure is
expressed as a torch. Thus, this reminds us of a fireball.
As for record #7, its subject is lost. This makes any detailed discussion difficult. However,
something like “a torch” appeared with UD.DA (ṣētu, bright light). The word ṣētu frequently
refers the light of the sun or the moon (CAD: XVI, pp150-153). Therefore, strong brightness, at least,
seems to be associated with this recorded phenomenon. According to the date written in the clay
tablet, its date is 10/11 or 11/12 November BCE 137. In case if it is observed at daytime, we can
hardly regard this event as aurora. In case if it is observed at night on 11/12, we have still a little
possibility to regard this event as aurora. We have examples for low-latitude aurora, which becomes
partially brighter (Shiokawa et al. 2005). Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility of aurora for this
record.
5.5. Likeliness of every record
Based on the analysis above, we can rate these aurora-like records as follows (Table 1). #2 has no
reason not to be related with aurora as Stephenson et al. (2004) stated. The same can be stated for the
“redness” in #5 and #6. They appeared repeatedly and remind us of clustering aurora caused by huge
geomagnetic storms like those at the Carrington event. The unusual “rainbows” in #3 and #8 are not
unlike aurora, since these rainbows are observed at night. Despite the same terminology, #1 is
unlikely to be aurora due to its daytime observation. #4 and #9 seem like fireballs or meteors from
the descriptions and we do not have any positive intention to relate them with aurora. #7 could be
aurora as the term dipāru can be used for description of ḫakukūtu, a variant of akukūtu, which can
mean aurora, though its subject is lost and we cannot make a clear conclusion on this.
Korte & Stolze (2012) estimated the location of the aurora zone for past 10,000 years. During the
period spanning from BCE 652 to BCE 61, Babylon was situated near the center of the two
boundaries where aurora was visible on the horizon at the geomagnetic activity levels Kp=4 and
Kp=9. According to the statistical study by Remick & Love (2006), the mean wait times between
successive events are 7.12, 16.55, 42.22, and 121.40 days for Kp ≥ 5, 6, 7, and 8, respectively. Thus,
it is quite likely that aurora was frequently visible at Babylon somewhere between the horizon and
zenith.
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5.6. Comparison with long-term solar activity
In order to map the aurora-like records shown above with long-term solar activity, we compared the
dates of these records with proxy-based solar activity levels. Figure 4 shows a comparison of the
aurora-like records with the solar activity level anomaly reconstructed using multiple proxies of
radioactive isotopes by Steinhilber et al. (2009) at a resolution of 20-30 years. However, it should
also be noted that this comparison between characteristics of the solar activity at different
time-scales is hard and complex, as on one hand auroras occur at daily scale and on the other hand
the reconstruction of solar activity by Steinhilber et al. (2009) has a decadal time-resolution. (see
Vaquero et al. (2002) for the similar problems in case of naked-eye observations of sunspots).
This figure shows us that most of the aurora-like records, except for #3 in BC 385 in Solar
Minimum (Eddy 1977a, b; Usoskin et al. 2007; Nagaya et al. 2012), are located in phases of high
solar activity. The cases #5-#7 are clustered in BCE 140s-130s and #8-#9 are around BCE 120.
These peaks are comparable with contemporary aurora records from other regions. For the former
peak, red vapour was recorded in BCE 139 in Chinese official history Hànshū (Yau et al. 1995), and
reports of sky fire in BCE 147 and night sun in BCE 134 in western classics (Stothers 1979). For the
latter peak, we have reports of milk rain in BCE 124 and BCE 118 in western classics (Stothers
1979). Although we do not have exact simultaneous observation of aurora, these clustering records
support the peaks at both BCE 140s-130s and around BCE 120 shown in the ADB.
6. Conclusion
We surveyed aurora-like records in ADB spanning from BCE 652 to BCE 61. We found 9 records of
aurora-like phenomena including one mentioned in Stephenson et al. (2004) and examined them to
evaluate 5 likely, 3 unlikely and 1 possible aurora event. The main characteristics of these events are
provided in this article. Our result is quite consistent with the long-term solar activity level, although
comparison between characteristics of the solar activity at different time-scales has difficulties as
stated above. This article rewrites the history of aurora observation in this early period with dates to
provide clear insights for the era before Christ. This article also examines proxies at a high
resolution in this early period in order to consider long-term solar activity and rare extreme space
weather events. A lot of unpublished clay tablets of the ADB are preserved in the British Museum.
Although most of them are fragmentary, study of those tablets will provide us further astronomical
information from the mid-seventh to the mid-first centuries BCE, possibly including further records
of aurora-like phenomena.
13
Abbreviations
BM: Tablets in the collections of the British Museum
VAT: Tablets in the collections of the Staatliche Museen, Berlin
Competing interests
There are no competing interests.
Authors’ contributions
This research was performed with the cooperation of authors as follows: HH and YM made
historical and philological contributions. ADK, YE, and HT made contributions on scientific
interpretations and analyses. HM compared and discussed records with long-term solar activity. HI
supervised this study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Acknowledgement
We thank the Trustees of the British Museum for allowing the study and photography of the tablets
BM 32312, BM 34609 (+) 34788 + 77617 + 78958, and BM 34634.
We acknowledge support from the Center for the Promotion of Integrated Sciences (CPIS) of
SOKENDAI as well as Kyoto University’s Supporting Program for Interaction-based Initiative Team
Studies “Integrated study on human in space” (PI: H. Isobe), the Interdisciplinary Research Idea
contest 2014 by the Center of Promotion Interdisciplinary Education and Research, the
“UCHUGAKU” project of the Unit of Synergetic Studies for Space, and the Exploratory Research
Projects of the Research Institute of Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University. This work was
also supported by Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology of Japan, Grant Numbers 15H05816 (PI: S. Yoden), 26870111 (PI: Y. Mitsuma), and
15H05815 (PI: Y. Miyoshi).
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19
Figures
Figure 1: A copy of #1, -651 Col. iv 20', by Yasuyuki Mitsuma
Figure 2: A copy of #3, -384 'Obv. 4', by Yasuyuki Mitsuma
Figure 3a (upper part): A copy of #5, -144 'Obv. 33' right side, by Yasuyuki Mitsuma
Figure 3b (lower part): A copy of #5, -144 'Obv. 34' left side, by Yasuyuki Mitsuma
20
Figure 4: Aurora-like records compared with total solar irradiance anomaly
Black Curve: Total solar irradiance anomaly from Steinhilber et al. (2009)
Black vertical lines: Likely aurora records from the ADB
Gray vertical lines: Unlikely aurora records from the ADB
Black dashed vertical lines: Possible aurora records from the ADB
ID
year (BCE)
month
date
direction
#1
651
??
??
E
#2
567
3
12/13
W
#3
385
12
8/9 or 9/10
NW
#4
166
9
16/17
S to N
#5
145
9/10
E and W
#6
144
7/8
E and W
#7
137
11
10/11 or 11/12
#8
123
4
28/29 or 29/30
N to S
#9
119
10
24/25
E to W
Table 1: Summary table for records of aurora-like phenomena in ADB
... Further analyses in the cosmogenic isotope data have identified a third extreme SEP event in 660 BCE (Park et al. 2017;O'Hare et al. 2019). This event occurred slightly before the established coverage of datable records of candidate aurorae back to the 6th century BCE (Stephenson et al. 2004;Silverman 2006;Hayakawa et al. 2016; see Appendix A). ...
... 501; Hunger 1992). The earliest known Babylonian astronomical diary is dated in the same period (≈651 BCE; Sachs & Hunger 1988;Hayakawa et al. 2016). We found 14 Assyrian and 30 Babylonian scholars as senders of the reports (Hunger 1992). ...
... In order to survey candidate auroral reports around the 7th century BCE, we have consulted the astrological reports in Hungerʼs critical edition (Hunger 1992) and noted all mentions of reddish luminous phenomena in the sky (see, Stephenson et al. 2004;Hayakawa et al. 2016). Among the 389 astrological reports surveyed, we have found three containing auroral candidates: "red glow" (R1=Rm211), "red cloud" (R2=K748), and "red sky" (R3=80-7-19,19) (Appendix B). ...
... Further analyses in the cosmogenic isotope data have identified a third extreme SEP event in 660 BCE (Park et al., 2017;O'Hare et al., 2019). This event occurred slightly before the established coverage of datable records of candidate aurorae back to the 6th century BCE (Stephenson et al., 2004;Silverman, 2006;Hayakawa et al., 2016; see Appendix 1). ...
... 501) (Hunger, 1992). The earliest known Babylonian astronomical diary is dated in the same period (≈ 652 BCE) (Sachs, 1988;Hayakawa et al., 2016). We found names of 14 Assyrian senders and 30 Babylonian scholars in the reports (Hunger, 1992). ...
... In order to survey candidate auroral reports around the 7th century BCE, we have consulted the astrological reports in Hunger's critical edition (Hunger, 1992) and noted all mentions of reddish luminous phenomena in the sky (c.f., Stephenson et al., 2004;Hayakawa et al., 2016). Among the 389 astrological reports surveyed, we have found three containing auroral candidates: 'red glow' (R1 = Rm211), 'red cloud' (R2 = K748), and 'red sky' (R3 = 80-7-19,19) (Appendix 2). ...
Preprint
Auroral records found in historical archives and cosmogenic isotopes found in natural archives have served as sound proxies of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar energetic particles (SEPs), respectively, for dates prior to the onset of telescopic sunspot observations in 1610. These space weather events constitute a significant threat to a modern civilization, because of its increasing dependency on an electronic infrastructure. Recent studies have identified multiple extreme space weather events derived from solar energetic particles (SEPs) in natural archives, such as the event in 660 BCE. While the level of solar activity around 660 BCE is of great interest, this had not been within the coverage of the hitherto-known datable auroral records in historical documents that extend back to the 6th century BCE. Therefore, we have examined Assyrian astrological reports in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, identified three observational reports of candidate aurorae, and dated these reports to approximately 680 BCE -- 650 BCE. The Assyrian cuneiform tablets let us extend the history of auroral records and solar activity by a century. These cuneiform reports are considered to be the earliest datable records of candidate aurorae and they support the concept of enhanced solar activity suggested by the cosmogenic isotopes from natural archives.
... The Carrington event in 1859 is one of the earliest flares connected to the greatest magnetic storm in the history of ground-based telescopic observations (Kimball 1960;Tsurutani et al. 2003;Cliver & Svalgaard 2004). On the very date of this event, Carrington (1859Carrington ( , 1863) recorded a great sunspot that was estimated to be up to 3000 millionths of a solar hemisphere (Cliver & Keer 2012;Hayakawa et al. 2016b). This great sunspot caused a white-light flare to bring great magnetic storms to the Earth, with low-latitude auroras up in worldwide sites up to 22-23° magnetic latitude (MLAT). ...
... This great sunspot caused a white-light flare to bring great magnetic storms to the Earth, with low-latitude auroras up in worldwide sites up to 22-23° magnetic latitude (MLAT). Auroral displays were visible in sites such as Hawaii, the Caribbean Coast, and Southern Japan (Carrington 1859;Hodgson 1859;Neidig & Cliver 1983a,b;Kimball 1960;Tsurutani et al. 2003;Cliver & Svalgaard 2004;Farrona et al. 2011;Cliver & Dietrich 2013;Hayakawa et al. 2016b;Lakhina & Tsurutani 2016;Riley et al. 2018). The magnetic storm brought intense magnetic disturbances at low latitudes, with maximum negative intensity up to 1600 nT, recorded at Colaba (Tsurutani et al. 2003;Nevanlinna 2004Nevanlinna , 2006Ribeiro et al. 2011;Cliver & Dietrich 2013;Viljanen et al. 2014;Kumar et al. 2015). ...
... While studies on great flares and the resultant great magnetic storms after the mid-19th century have been conducted recently (e.g. Allen et al. 1989;Silverman & Cliver 2001;Cliver & Svalgaard 2004;Shiokawa et al. 2002Shiokawa et al. , 2005Vaquero et al. 2008;Silverman 1995Silverman , 2006Silverman , 2008Cliver & Dietrich 2013;Araki 2014;Cid et al. 2014;Viljanen et al. 2014;Kilpua et al. 2015;Vennerstrom et al. 2016;Lefèvre et al. 2016;Knipp et al. 2016;Hayakawa et al. 2016b;Lockwood et al. 2016;Love 2017), solar flares and the resultant magnetic storms before the Carrington event have not been well studied due to lack of systematic observations for solar flares and magnetic disturbances. ...
Article
Full-text available
Aims . Historical records provide evidence of extreme magnetic storms with equatorward auroral extensions before the epoch of systematic magnetic observations. One significant magnetic storm occurred on February 15, 1730. We scale this magnetic storm with auroral extension and contextualise it based on contemporary solar activity. Methods . We examined historical records in East Asia and computed the magnetic latitude (MLAT) of observational sites to scale magnetic storms. We also compared them with auroral records in Southern Europe. We examined contemporary sunspot observations to reconstruct detailed solar activity between 1729 and 1731. Results . We show 29 auroral records in East Asian historical documents and 37 sunspot observations. Conclusions . These records show that the auroral displays were visible at least down to 25.8° MLAT throughout East Asia. In comparison with contemporary European records, we show that the boundary of the auroral display closest to the equator surpassed 45.1° MLAT and possibly came down to 31.5° MLAT in its maximum phase, with considerable brightness. Contemporary sunspot records show an active phase in the first half of 1730 during the declining phase of the solar cycle. This magnetic storm was at least as intense as the magnetic storm in 1989, but less intense than the Carrington event.
... However, this discussion was subject to difficulty caused by the lack of contemporary instrumental observations, as even the telescopic sunspot observations -one of the longest ongoing experiments -had lasted only roughly 400 years (Vaquero, 2007;Vaquero and Vazquez, 2009;Owens, 2013;Clette et al., 2014;Vaquero et al., 2016). Therefore, historical records were also surveyed to obtain relevant astronomical evidence, as the historical records have much longer but less complete and homogeneous coverage of datable observations in terms of supernovae (Clark and Stephenson, 1977;Stephenson and Green, 2002;Enoto, Kisaka, and Shibata, 2018), comets (Kronk, 1999), sunspots (Willis, Easterbrook, and Stephenson, 1980;Vaquero and Vazquez, 2009;Willis and Stephenson, 2001), and aurorae (Silverman, 1998(Silverman, , 2006Stephenson, Willis, and Hallinan, 2004;Hayakawa et al., 2016bHayakawa et al., , 2017aHayakawa et al., , 2017b. ...
Article
Full-text available
The anomalous concentration of radiocarbon in 774/775 attracted intense discussion on its origin, including the possible extreme solar event(s) exceeding any events in observational history. Anticipating such extreme solar events, auroral records were also surveyed in historical documents and those including the red celestial sign after sunset in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC) were subjected to consideration. Usoskin et al. (Astron. Astrophys. 55, L3, 2013: U13) interpreted this record as an aurora and suggested enhanced solar activity around 774/775. Conversely, Neuhäuser and Neuhäuser (Astron. Nachr. 336, 225, 2015a: N15a; Astron. Nachr. 336, 913, 2015b: N15b) interpreted “after sunset” as during sunset or twilight; they considered this sign as a halo display and suggested a solar minimum around 774. However, so far these records have not been discussed in comparison with eyewitness auroral records during the known extreme space weather events, although they were discussed in relationship with potential extreme events in 774/775. Therefore, we reconstruct the observational details based on the original records in the ASC and philological references, compare them with eyewitness auroral observations during known extreme space weather events, and consider contemporary solar activity. We clarify the observation was indeed “after sunset”, reject the solar-halo hypothesis, define the observational time span between 25 March 775 and 25 December 777, and note that the parallel “drawing of lunar halo display” in 806 in the ASC shown in N15b was not based on the original observation in England. We show examples of eyewitness auroral observations during twilight in known space weather events, and this celestial sign does not contradict the observational evidence. Accordingly, we consider this event to have happened after the onset of the event in 774/775, but to have shown relatively enhanced solar activity, with regard to other historical auroral records in the mid-770s, as also confirmed by the ¹⁰ Be data from ice cores.
... Therefore, historical records were also surveyed to obtain relevant astronomical evidence, as the historical records have much longer but less complete and homogeneous coverage of datable observations in terms of supernovae (Clark and Stephenson, 1977;Stephenson and Green, 2002;Enoto, Kisaka, and Shibata, 2018), comets (Kronk, 1999), sunspots (Willis, Easterbrook, and Stephenson, 1980;Vaquero and Vazquez, 2009;Willis and Stephenson, 2001), and aurorae (Silverman, 1998(Silverman, , 2006Stephenson, Willis, and Hallinan, 2004;Hayakawa et al., 2016bHayakawa et al., , 2017b. ...
Preprint
The anomalous concentration of radiocarbon in 774/775 attracted intense discussion on its origin, including the possible extreme solar event(s) exceeding any events in observational history. Anticipating such extreme solar events, auroral records were also surveyed in historical documents and those including the red celestial sign after sunset in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC) were subjected to consideration. Usoskin et al. (2013: U13) interpreted this record as an aurora and suggested enhanced solar activity around 774/775. Conversely, Neuhauser and Neuhauser (2015a, 2015b: N15a and N15b) interpreted "after sunset" as during sunset or twilight; they considered this sign as a halo display and suggested a solar minimum around 774. However, so far these records have not been discussed in comparison with eyewitness auroral records during the known extreme space-weather events, although they were discussed in relationship with potential extreme events in 774/775. Therefore, we reconstruct the observational details based on the original records in the ASC and philological references, compare them with eyewitness auroral observations during known extreme space-weather events, and consider contemporary solar activity. We clarify the observation was indeed "after sunset", reject the solar halo hypothesis, define the observational time span between 25 Mar. 775 and 25 Dec. 777, and note the parallel halo drawing in 806 in the ASC shown in N15b was not based on the original observation in England. We show examples of eyewitness auroral observations during twilight in known space-weather events, and this celestial sign does not contradict the observational evidence. Accordingly, we consider this event happened after the onset of the event in 774/775, but shows relatively enhanced solar activity, with other historical auroral records in the mid-770s, as also confirmed by the Be data from ice cores.
Article
The Late Babylonian Astronomical Diaries and related texts contain a large body of records of astronomical phenomena which were carefully and systematically observed between about 600 BC and 50 BC. Most of these observations are of regular (cyclical) astronomical phenomena such as passages of the planets past certain stars, the first and last appearances, stations, and acronychal risings of the planets, and eclipses of the sun and moon. However, a smaller number of observations of irregular, transient astronomical phenomena were also recorded. In addition to being of historical interest, records of certain transient phenomena have applications in modern science. In this paper, we provide a catalog of three types of transient phenomena observed by the Babylonians – haloes, meteors, and comets – as well as some basic analysis of the records and the necessary contextual information to facilitate their analysis and use by other scholars.
Article
Cuneiform tablets appertain to the oldest textual artifacts used for more than three illennia and are comparable in amount and relevance to texts written in Latin or ancient Greek. hese tablets are typically found in the Middle East and were written by imprinting wedge-shaped impressions into wet clay. There is an increasing demand in the Digital Humanities domain for handwriting recognition, i.e., machine reading of handwritten script, focusing on historic documents. Current practice in text analysis of cuneiform script relies heavily on transliteration and translation, which are incomplete and influenced by the knowledge and experience of the expert that created them. The development of computational tools for cuneiform analysis presents many opportunities. An efficient and accurate sign spotting enables cross-referencing and statistical analyzes that are infeasible to perform manually. Furthermore, a wedge constellation spotting tool, provides experts with a significantly broader base of references to create more accurate and less time consuming transliterations and translations. Yet, cuneiform script has since resisted efforts to computational processing on basis of its basic constituents, its 3D wedge-shaped impressions and their free-form arrangements into signs. In this work, we review the literature on computational processing and recognition in the domain of cuneiform script. We introduce the different heterogeneous sources of cuneiform script, namely, manual ink-on-paper drawings, digital vector graphics drawings, photographs, and 3D scans of tablets. We describe the development of methods, beginning with the first computational classification using a hybrid manual encoding and computational comparison, to the latest methods making use of Generative Adversarial Neural Networks to recognize characters automatically. Finally, we give an overview of applications of these methods that enable quantitative mining in the small, e.g., patterns of wedge constellations, and in the large, e.g., networks of economic activity.
Article
Aurora observations are an uncommon phenomenon at low and mid latitudes that, at the end of the 18th century, were not well known and understood. Low and mid geomagnetic latitude aurora observations provide information about episodes of intense solar storms associated with flares and outstanding coronal mass ejection (CME) and about the variation of the geomagnetic field. However, for many observers at mid and low latitudes, the features of a northern light were unknown, so they could easily report it as a phenomenon without explanation. In this work, we found that an earlier mid geomagnetic latitude aurora was observed in Beauséjour, close to Béziers (43∘19′ N, 3∘13′ E), France, by the abbot François Rozier. He was a meticulous botanist, doctor and agronomist with a special interest in atmospheric phenomena. On 15 August 1780, from 19:55 to 20:07 (Universal Time), François Rozier observed a “phosphoric cloud”. A careful analysis of the report indicates that he was reporting an auroral event. The recovery of auroral events at low and mid latitude during the 1780s is very useful for shedding light on solar activity during this period because there are few records of sunspot observations.
Chapter
From the earliest times astronomical information was used for calendars, time, climate, farming, seasons, and phenomena predictions. The Sun, Moon, five planets, and star patterns were known. Treatises and tables were used to calculate positions of planets. There are records of astronomical data in different forms from different countries. Ptolemy created accurate geometrical models for compiling positions of planets. The Chinese had records of celestial phenomena. The Mayan had their codices containing almanacs. The Islamic cultures had astronomical zijes of astronomical tables. In the 15th and 16th centuries there were a number of almanacs printed with the printing presses. In 1628 Kepler produced the Rudolphine Tables, the first real improvement since Ptolemy. With the printing press many almanacs were published with astronomical data and other information. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich was founded in 1675. The Connaisance des Temps was first published in 1678. In 1700 the Calendar Edict introduced the Gregorian Calendar to Germany and required a stamp tax on calendars, which supported the astronomers of the Berlin Observatory. Navigators could determine latitude by angular measurements of Polaris or the Sun. Different navigational instruments were developed for measuring celestial angles with increasing precision.
Preprint
The Carrington storm (September 1/2, 1859) is one of the largest magnetic storms ever observed and it has caused global auroral displays in low-latitude areas, together with a series of multiple magnetic storms during August 28 and September 4, 1859. In this study, we revisit contemporary auroral observation records to extract information on their elevation angle, color, and direction to investigate this stormy interval in detail. We first examine their equatorward boundary of "auroral emission with multiple colors" based on descriptions of elevation angle and color. We find that their locations were 36.5 deg ILAT on August 28/29 and 32.7 deg ILAT on September 1/2, suggesting that trapped electrons moved to, at least, L~1.55 and L~1.41, respectively. The equatorward boundary of "purely red emission" was likely located at 30.8 deg ILAT on September 1/2. If "purely red emission" was a stable auroral red arc, it would suggest that trapped protons moved to, at least, L~1.36. This reconstruction with observed auroral emission regions provides conservative estimations of magnetic storm intensities. We compare the auroral records with magnetic observations. We confirm that multiple magnetic storms occurred during this stormy interval, and that the equatorward expansion of the auroral oval is consistent with the timing of magnetic disturbances. It is possible that the August 28/29 interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) cleared out the interplanetary medium, making the ICMEs for the Carrington storm on September 1/2 more geoeffective.
Article
Records of observations of sunspots and auroras in pre-telescopic historical documents provide useful information about past solar activity both in long-term trends and short-term space weather events. In this study, we present the results of a comprehensive survey of the records of sunspots and aurora candidates in the Yu\'ansh\v{i} and M\'ingsh\v{i}, Chinese Official Histories spanning 1261-1368 and 1368-1644, based on continuous observations with well-formatted reportds conducted by contemporary professional astronomers. We then provide a brief comparison of these data with Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) as an indicator of the solar activity during the corresponding periods to show significant active phases between 1350s-80s and 1610s-30s. We then compared the former with contemporary Russian reports for naked-eye sunspots and the latter with contemporary sunspot drawings based on Western telescopic observations. Especially some of the latter are consistent with nitrate signals preserved in ice cores. These results show us some insights on not only minima and maxima of solar activity during 13th - 17th century.
Article
People have probably been watching the sky since the beginning of human history. Observers in pre-telescopic ages recorded anomalous events and these astronomical records in the historical documents provide uniquely valuable information for modern scientists. Records with drawings are particularly useful, as the verbal expressions recorded by pre-telescopic observers, who did not know the physical nature of the phenomena, are often ambiguous. However, drawings for specific datable events in the historical documents are much fewer than the verbal records. Therefore, in this paper, we show the possible earliest drawings of datable auroras and a two-tail comet in a manuscript of the Chronicle of Z\=uqn\=in, a Syriac chronicle up to 775/776 CE to interpret their nature. They provide not only the historical facts in the realm around Amida but also information about low-latitude aurora observations due to extreme space weather events and the existence of sun-grazing comets.
Article
The magnetic storm around 1859 September 2, caused by so-called Carrington flare, was the most intense in the history of modern scientific observations, and hence is considered to be the benchmark event for space weather. The magnetic storm caused worldwide observations of auroras even at very low latitudes such as Hawaii, Panama, or Santiago, and the available magnetic field measurement at Bombay, India, showed two peaks: the main was the Carrington event which occurred in day time in East Asia, and a second storm after the Carrington event which occurred at night in East Asia. In this paper, we present a result from surveys of aurora records in East Asia, which provides new information of the aurora activity of this important event. We found some new East Asian records of low latitude aurora observations caused by the storm which occurred after the Carrington event. The size of the aurora belt of the second peak of the Carrington magnetic storm was even wider than usual low-latitude aurora events.
Article
We present the result of a survey of sunspots and auroras in Qíngshǐgǎo (清史稿), a draft chronicle of Qíng dynasty, for the period of 1559–1912 CE. This is a sequel to a series of works surveying historical sunspot and aurora records, and providing online data to the scientific community regarding the attained results. In total of this Qíngshǐgǎo survey, we found 111 records of night-sky luminous events with such keywords as vapor (氣, qì), cloud (雲, yún), and light (光, guāng), which may indicate auroras as well as some other phenomena. Similarly, a keyword survey for sunspots was conducted, but no sunspot record was found. In comparison with the aurora records in the western world, we found that 14 of the 111 records have a corresponding record of simultaneous observation in the western world, and hence are very likely to be aurora. In order to investigate the likeliness of the remainder of the record being aurora, we calculated the lunar age and the phase of a solar cycle for each record. After these calculations, a notable fraction of these records clustered near the full moon were to be found statistically doubtful in considerations with atmospheric optics; meanwhile, a few records of observations near the new moon could be more likely interpreted as being auroras, including three records during the Maunder minimum.