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Solar Flare of 1730



On October 22, 1730, a large solar flare or Aurora Borealis appeared in the night sky over Boston, and was visible as far south as Newport, Rhode Island. In the 1700s, solar flares were considered celestial manifestations of God on Earth; today they are considered dangerous bursts of radiation that can damage satellites and other electronic equipment all around the globe. The October 29, 1730 Boston Weekly Newsletter describes the infrequent natural phenomena (edited to modern English):

"Last Thursday evening we had the most surprising appearance of the Aurora Borealis, as...thought was ever beheld here: At first it appeared with the Northern Twilight, a bright flame in the north quarter of the horizon. About half an hour past seven, there shot up a stream which collected into a body, and seemed to hang over us like a cloud of fire. This lasted a few minutes, when it grew fainter till it disappeared: But still the light in the north continued so bright, that one might see to read some large print.

About nine o'clock it increased again, and the Heavens here and there grew luminous and red. At twenty four minutes after nine, which moving slowly to the East, began to glow very fierce. It rose leisurely, and at last crowded into a center near the Zenith, when in a few minutes it branched all over the northern half of the Hemisphere, in a florid and sparkling color of many rainbows. It continued for about a quarter of an hour shifting its form and colors and then by degrees grew fainter till it quite vanished.

For the remainder of the night, a settled luster dawned round the Northern edges of the Hemisphere, which kept flashing at intervals, till it was lost in the morning light.

This should lead our thoughts to the contemplation of that awful Night, when the Heavens being on Fire, shall be dissolved, and the Elements shall melt with fervent Heat; when our blessed SAVIOUR shall descend in flaming fire, in the Clouds of Heaven, with Power and Great Glory.

At Newport, Rhode Island, on October 23, the night sky also lit up with scarlet hues: "Last night...about seven o'clock, there appeared in the sky an unusual and surprising light in our Horizon, which increased till it shot its rays up to the Zenith, in spires like Blood and Fire; the lower parts being as high above the Horizon as the sun seems to be at 3 hours high. The foot of the appearance was from N.E. to N.W. passing Southward, and by 10 o'clock it was decreased very much, though the Horizon continued very light below it. It was visible at two o'clock in the morning pitching into the Southern Horizon. The figure of said appearance seemed to resemble a woman's fan when open, the handle upwards. The like phenomena was never seen in this place since the English settled here.

In New Hampshire on October October 22, "there was a very great appearance of the Aurora Borealis, intermixed with a great variety of streams of light extending from the N. to N.E. & b. E. The brightness of the sky was so very great that the smallest print might plainly be discerned."



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