The Fiery Aurora of 1837

"On the evening of Jan. 25, 1837, there was a remarkable exhibition of the same phenomena [meaning the aurora borealis] in various parts of the country, as our readers will doubtless recollect. Where the ground was covered with snow, the sight was grand and 'fearful' in a most unprecedented manner. In one place, situated near a mountain, the people who witnessed the scene, informed us that it resembled 'waves of fire rolling down the mountain,' and generally, so far as learned, the snow covering the ground appeared like fire mingled with blood, while above (as the apostle says), 'the heavens being on fire,' resembled so much the prophetic description of the last day that many were amazed; the children beholding it were affrighted, and inquired if it were the coming of the judgment; and even the animals trembled with much manifest alarm."  

It was not alone in America that this sign of the prophet Joel was displayed, but as the doctrine of the Lord's coming was gaining publicity in Great Britain, the same sign was hung out in the heavens in that country. The New York Commercial Advertiser of Oct. 22, 1839, quotes the following from London papers concerning a remarkable phenomenon witnessed in that country on the night of September 3:-  

The Aurora of 1839

"LONDON, SEPT. 5 [1839].-Between the hours of ten on Thursday night and three yesterday morning, in the heavens was observed one of the most magnificent specimens of these extraordinary phenomena, the falling stars and northern lights, witnessed for many years past. The first indication of this singular phenomenon was ten minutes before ten, when a light crimson, apparently vapor, rose from the northern portion of the hemisphere, and gradually extended to the center of the heavens, and by ten o'clock or a quarter past, the whole, from east to west, was one vast sheet of light. It had a most alarming appearance, and was exactly like that occasioned by a terrific fire. The light varied considerable; at one time it seemed to fall, and directly after rose with intense brightness. There were to be seen mingled with it volumes of smoke, which rolled over and over, and every beholder seemed convinced that it was 'a tremendous conflagration.'   

"The consternation of the metropolis was very great; thousands of persons were running in the direction of the supposed awful catastrophe. The engines belonging to the fire brigade stations in Baker Street, Farringdon Street, Watling Street, Waterloo Road, and likewise those belonging to the west of London stations-in fact, every fire engine in London, was horsed and galloped after the supposed 'scene of destruction' with more than ordinary energy, followed by carriages, horsemen, and vast mobs. Some of the engines proceeded as far as High Gate and Halloway [about four miles] before the error was discovered. These appearances lasted for upwards of two hours, and toward morning the spectacle became one of grandeur.   

"At two o'clock in the morning the phenomenon presented a most gorgeous scene, and one very difficult to describe. The whole of London was illuminated as light as noonday, and the atmosphere was remarkably clear. The southern hemisphere, at the time mentioned, though unclouded, was very dark; but the stars, which were innumerable, shone beautifully. The opposite side of the heavens presented a singular but magnificent contrast; it was clear to extreme, and the light was very vivid; there was a continual succession of meteors, which varied in splendor-they appeared formed in the center of the heavens, and spread till they seemed to burst. The effect was electrical. Myriads of small stars shot out over the horizon, and darted with such swiftness toward the earth that the eye could scarcely follow the track; they seemed to burst also, and throw a dark crimson vapor over the entire hemisphere. The colors were most magnificent.  

"At half past two o'clock the spectacle changed to darkness, which, on dispersing, displayed a luminous rainbow in the zenith of the heavens, and round the ridge of darkness that overhung the southern portion of the country. Soon afterward columns of silvery light radiated from it. They increased wonderfully, intermingled among crimson vapor  which formed at the same time, and when at full height the spectacle was beyond all imagination. Stars were darting about in all directions, and continued until four o'clock, when all died away." 

1905 JNL, GSAM 112-114