Kristian Birkeland: The First Space Scientist by Alv Egeland

By Alv Egeland

At the start of the 20th century Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917), a Norwegian scientist of insatiable interest, addressed questions that had vexed eu scientists for hundreds of years. Why do the northern lighting fixtures seem overhead whilst the Earth’s magnetic box is disturbed? How are magnetic storms attached to disturbances at the solar? to respond to those questions Birkeland interpreted his boost laboratory simulations and bold campaigns within the Arctic desolate tract within the mild of Maxwell’s newly found legislation of electrical energy and magnetism. Birkeland’s rules have been disregarded for many years, simply to be vindicated whilst satellites might fly above the Earth’s surroundings.

Faced with the depleting shares of Chilean saltpeter and the ensuing prospect of mass hunger, Birkeland confirmed his sensible facet, inventing the 1st business scale approach to extract nitrogen-based fertilizers from the air. Norsk Hydro, one among smooth Norway’s greatest industries, stands as a residing tribute to his genius.

Hoping to illustrate what we now name the sun wind, Birkeland moved to Egypt in 1913. remoted from his buddies through the nice battle, Birkeland yearned to have fun his 50th birthday in Norway. the one secure passage domestic, through the a ways East, introduced him to Tokyo the place within the overdue spring of 1917 he handed away.

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During magnetic disturbances the small magnet moved in response to the variations in the Earth’s field, and large deviations were recorded. The observatories had self-registering barometers, thermometers, and hydrometers, as well as instruments for measuring the electric conductivity of the atmosphere. h Birkeland wrote: “The worst trouble was the repeated breaking of our telephone-wires. At first the telephone wires between the two summits were hung upon poles in the usual manner; but that proved to be useless” (NAPE, p.

In his main book, Birkeland also mentioned that he could guide visible discharges toward the glass wall by putting his finger at the outside, like modern plasma-ball toys. Birkeland mounted a cross-shaped obstacle made of aluminium in the discharge tube. He carefully studied effects of the rotating cross versus distance to 32 CHAPTER 3 Figure 8. Example of the first artificial aurora produced inside a device that Birkeland called an F auroral jar, taken from Birkeland’s paper of March 1896. The picture shows his most successful simulation of artificial auroral emissions produced with cathode rays in the discharge tube.

Generating cathode rays required a high-voltage generator. Early in his experimental career, Birkeland used induction coils to produce high voltages from low-voltage sources. In 1907, he purchased a high-voltage generator from Thury in Geneva that delivered up to 25,000 Volts at low currents and was the most powerful generator then available for purchase. Around 1910, he hired the two Devik brothers. Karl helped Jørgen Dietrichson with terrella experiments and took over his position after Dietrichson died.

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