Discovered the oldest mention of the Polar light in the history of mankind

Researchers have found the oldest known mention of the Polar light, described in an ancient Chinese text dated to about the X century BC. The description of space weather events predates the previous oldest mention of the Polar light by about three centuries. This discovery is reported by Advances in Space Research.

In a new study, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan evaluated the “Bamboo Annals” (Zhushu Jinian in Mandarin Chinese), which chronicles the history of China from the earliest legendary times to the time of their probable compilation in the IV century BC. In the text, where from time to time there are reports of unusual observations in the sky, the researchers studied the mention of a five-color light observed in the northern part of the sky near the end of the reign of King Zhao of the Zhou dynasty. This fragment was probably written around 977-957 BC.

The oldest mention of the northern (polar) light in the history of mankind dates the 10th century BC. Illustration: BBC News

The researchers found that the record of the “five-color light” is consistent with a large geomagnetic storm causing Polar light. In the 10th century BC, the Earth’s north magnetic pole was tilted to the Eurasian side about 15° closer to central China than at present. According to scientists, Polar light in the middle latitudes was quite bright and represented a multicolored spectacle.

References to the Polar Lights in history

Thus, the researchers believe that Polar light could probably see observers in central China during significant magnetic disturbances, which makes this mention the earliest dated record of the aurora in the history of mankind. Previously, the oldest records of Polar lights were made by Assyrian astronomers on cuneiform tablets in the period 679-655 BC. According to scientists, another probable record of the Polar lights was discovered in the astronomical diary of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, dating from 567 BC.

The scientists added that such studies, based on the revision of historical records, can help model long-term patterns of variability of space weather and solar activity on time scales from decades to millennia. Understanding these fluctuations can help humanity prepare for future powerful solar eruptions that could destroy the technological infrastructure.