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Christmas Meeting, December 16, 2018

The Northern lights - from ancient myths and modern science
Pål Brekke, Norwegian Space Centre

What is more beautiful on a cold winter’s night than catching a glimpse of the northern lights or “aurora borealis” dancing across the sky? This stunning phenomenon is deeply embedded in the mythology of many cultures, and in the past, the causes of northern lights were ascribed to everything from dancing spirits to God’s anger. But no one suspected a connection with the Sun until a little more than a hundred years ago, when an eccentric Norwegian scientist, Kristian Birkeland, realized that the Sun bombards the Earth with particles. 

Today we observe the Sun from satellites and can predict the Northern lights. And scientist are using ground based observatories, sounding rockets and satellites to understand the secrets behind the aurora - and to better understand the Sun-Eearth connection. With our ever increasing  technology based society this research also have an important practical as well.

This multimedia presentation will take the audience through the history of this phenomenon from ancient times to modern space based science.
The lecture will include several clips from a new wards-winning documentary «The Northern Lights - a Magic Experience» as well as new stunning real time video of the Northern Lights. 


Dr Pål Brekke received a PhD in 1993 from the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo. His work focused on observations of the Sun from instruments on sounding rockets and the space shuttle Challenger.  After the launch of Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) in December 1995 he was part of the science operation team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).  In 1999 he joined the European Space Agency (ESA) as the SOHO Deputy Project Scientist stationed at NASA GSFC. He currently works at the Norwegian Space Centre. He received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1994,  ESA´s´Eceptional Achievement Award in 2002, Laurels for Team Achievements from the International Academy of Astronautics in 2003. Served on several NASA Review Panels and as referee for various scientific journals.

Dr. Brekke has written several popular science books about the Sun and the Northern Lights, that are translated into many languages. He has recently produced the international award-winning documentary «The Northern Lights - a Magic Experience”, available in a number of languages. He is also an international recognized lecturer.




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