National Geographic : 2001 Nov
Observatory who bridges the contrasting responses to auroras. Asgeir Brekkc is a phys icist who has studied the northern lights for more than three decades, but he is also an expert on aurora lore and legend. 'I he walls of his office are hung with an intriguing mix of images, from radar stations to figures from northern mythology. Brckke is a soft spoken man with a sweep o>f graying hair, and as we talked, he Probed the images of death and life that recur in stories of auroras in different cultures the links to spirits and battles between suipernatunil forces in the sky. "I think for many people the phenonie non was scarv, but some brave souls had their own thoughts about it." IIe men tioned the Norwegian who in about 12,50 proposed rational-sounding explanations fb)r the northern lights. One was that Green land's ice drew in so much power that it could light the beams of the aurora. Along similar lines, he said, other Scandinavians had wondered if the lights were reflections from the sea or even from the glinting scales of huge shoals of herring. Brekke circled back to science. "The current satellite experiments and those fascinating pictures that show the aurora ring around the Pole are fantastic achievements," he said. "I feel that the northern lights give a linkage between science and art. Even though as a scientist you are supposed to have some , sort of objectivity, like an artist, you are inspired by them." In collaboration with Dagfinn Bakke, <In artist in Lofoten, Brekke has produced a book of watercolor paintings, scientific accounts, folktales, and poetry to show how people in Norway have related to auroras over the centuries. As I'd now come to understand, Brekke'.s enthusiasm foi- the lights represcOS a common bond between people who live beneath them and those Who study them from afar. AVhen he ended our iiiccting by reading poc111s about auroras, it seemed only fitting. ' MORE ON OUR WEBSITE Poetry and space ors j! ivOrF.> %ai ) physics? Of course gcth< a,' or nvdc <,to I there',) a connection, Just look up when the nationalgeographic.com/ heavens dance. ngm/0111.