University of Oulu

Usoskin, I.G., Kovaltsov, G.A., Mishina, L.N. et al. Sol Phys (2017) 292: 15.

An optical atmospheric phenomenon observed in 1670 over the city of Astrakhan was not a mid-latitude aurora

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Author: Usoskin, I.G.1,2; Kovaltsov, G.A.3; Mishina, L.N.4;
Organizations: 1Space Climate Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia
4Nosov Magnitogorsk State Technical University, Magnitogorsk, Russia
5Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
6Departamento de Fisica, Universidad de Extremadura, Mérida, Spain
7Instituto Universitario de Investigación del Agua, Cambio Climático y Sostenibilidad (IACYS), Universidad de Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-03-06


It has recently been claimed (Zolotova and Ponyavin Solar Phys., 291, 2869, 2016; ZP16 henceforth) that a mid-latitude optical phenomenon, which took place over the city of Astrakhan in July 1670, according to Russian chronicles, were a strong aurora borealis. If this were true, it would imply a very strong or even severe geomagnetic storm during the quietest part of the Maunder minimum. However, as we argue in this article, this conclusion is erroneous and caused by a misinterpretation of the chronicle record. As a result of a thorough analysis of the chronicle text, we show that the described phenomenon occurred during the daylight period of the day (“the last morning hour”), in the south (“towards noon”), and its description does not match that of an aurora. The date of the event was also interpreted incorrectly. We conclude that this phenomenon was not a mid-latitude aurora, but an atmospheric phenomenon, the so-called sundog (or parhelion), which is a particular type of solar halo. Accordingly, the claim of a strong mid-latitude aurora during the deep Maunder Minimum is not correct and should be dismissed.

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Series: Solar physics
ISSN: 0038-0938
ISSN-E: 1573-093X
ISSN-L: 0038-0938
Volume: 292
Article number: 15
DOI: 10.1007/s11207-016-1035-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 115 Astronomy and space science
Funding: IGU and GAK acknowledge support by the Academy of Finland to the ReSoLVE Center of Excellence (project no. 272157). JMV was supported by the Junta de Extremadura (Research Group Grants GR15137) and by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of the Spanish Government (AYA2014-57556-P).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 272157
Detailed Information: 272157 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Sol Phys. The final authenticated version is available online at: