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Aurora Photographed for the First Time

Jan 05, 1892

In January 1892 the first successful auroral photograph was made by German physicist Martin Brendel. Although it was limited to a blurred, low-contrast picture, it did convey some sense of the shape of the aurora. The task was not easy because the auroral light itself was generally feeble and flickering while photographic materials of the time required a long exposure, and were little sensitive to the deep reds in the aurora. One of his photographs, taken on Feb. 1, 1892, was published in Century Magazine of October 1897. Brendel had travelled to Alten Fiord, Lapland, to spend several months studying auroral displays and magnetic disturbances. The first color pictures were not taken until about 1950, and Life magazine published color aurora photographs in 1953.