The aurora is triggered by the solar wind, but the link to storms on the Sun only became clear after a massive solar storm in 1859. At the same time, a scientist of Orkney descent at Kew Observatory observed an equally powerful magnetic disturbance here on Earth.
His name was Balfour Stewart, with family connections to Westray through his father, and through his mother – a Clouston – to Stromness and Sandwick. He worked closely with many of the great physicists of the time, and two of his students went on to win a Nobel Prize.
Local historian Patricia Long looks at the story of the man, and Prof. Tom Stevenson looks at evidence for effects of the 1859 event on Orkney’s weather.
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