Skip to main content

Toronto Astronomical Society
Meeting Minutes - 1869 August 3


Regular Meeting Aug 3th 1869
At Mr. Clare's

Present:- Mr. Ridgway - Vice President, in the chair, Messrs Turnbull, Elvins, Brunt, Thompson & Clare. Visitor Mr. Moorhouse.

The minutes of previous meeting were read and confirmed.

An interesting letter from Mr. Winder to Mr. Elvins was read detailing his visit to the Observatory at Cincinnati, and his kind receiption there by Prof. Abbé, a gentlemen who had worked along with Prof. Huggins.

The place suggested and agreed upon for the observation of the Eclipse - west end of Nassau Street.

Mr. Elvins called attention to some celestial phenomena worthy of attention during the month.

It was agreed that the work of observing the Eclipse should be apportioned as follows:-

Mr. Turnbull - Bailey's Beads. Time of first and last contacts. Sec. Mr. Clare
Mr. Elvins. Protuberances, Corona.
Sec. Mr. Thompson.
Mr. Ridgway. Cusps
Mr. Potter Barometer & Thermometer
at equal intervals of time, of 5 min.
Mr. Brunt Stars visible &c
Mr. Winder (If present) Spectroscope & Polariscope

Mr. Elvins presented two papers - One on the "motion of bodies in elliptic orbits"; the other on "Day-light Aurora, as seen by him on May 5th"

The former of these offered an explanation of the cause of the tails of comets pointing from the Sun.

The latter - "Day-Light Aurora" as in substance as follows:-

7 PM Sun just setting - beautifully shining out through an opening near the horizon - the rest of the sky quite covered clouds - those clouds having a very peculiar colour; white as a rule, but having patches of a beautiful and brilliant blue scattered through them. The clouds had the appearance of huge clouds masses of snow with dark hollows here and there through them.

At 7.15 I distinctly saw Auroral columns or pillars, streaming upward to a great height. One which appeared to join the top of St Michael's spire was very distinct, and had an eastward motion. Its color was darker than the rest of the sky - a strange dark transparent form exactly like Aurora at night, but with this difference, that instead of being brighter than the rest of the sky, it was darker. Aurora are seen as pillars of cloud by day, and of fire by night. xxxxxxx

There can be no doubt but that Aurora are due to electricity in motion, but we have always seen electricity as flame spark, or at least luminous; but, here we have a display not brighter, but darker than surrounding objects, though having the same form and motion as ordinary aurora. How, or by what means it assumed this appearance, I cannot tell.

I may also notice that in this case the streamers must have been below the clouds, or seen through them; we have usually regarded auroral streamers & arches as several miles high at least: in this case it would seem to be impossible for there were heavy clouds behind the columns which formed a back-ground for the display.

I had hoped that I might have been the first to observe record such an appearance, but in this I am disappointed. Prof. Loomis informs me that similar aurora have been observed and recorded by him in one or two instances. They have been published by the Smithsonian Institution in the Notices of 1865.

Next meeting to be held at Mr. Ridgway's on Tuesday 7th September.