It’s June, the season for graduations and vacations. Whether you’re soaking up the sun at the beach, curling up in a cozy cabin, or enjoying an evening at home, we’ve pulled together a reading list of fantastic books that explore aurora science and citizen science using words and descriptions that are easy to understand. If you’re looking for an interesting, relaxing summer read, check these out!
|Aurora: In Search of The Northern Lights, by Dr. Melanie Windridge, 2016
Authored by a plasma physicist, Aurora explores the science behind our favorite phenomenon through the story of Dr. Windridge aurora chasing across the world. Dr. Liz says the information is accurate like a textbook, but in clear language without any equations! In 2020, Dr. Windridge even gave a Q&A on the book to the Aurorasaurus Ambassadors. You can watch it here–and check out Dr. Windridge’s blog here.
|Hearts in the Ice: The Adventures of the First Two Women to Overwinter Solo in Svalbard, by Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sorby, 2021
24-hour night. Polar bears. Rarely-seen auroras. Teamwork and connection with communities around the world. The story of the epic expedition Hearts in the Ice of 2019-2021 inspires and uplifts our hearts. Hilde and Sunniva conducted observations every day during their sojourn in the extreme but fragile environment of Svalbard–including for Aurorasaurus– and told their story in their recently-released book. You can watch Dr. Liz join them to talk with students about their work here.
|The Aurora Watcher’s Handbook, by T. Neil Davis, 1992
This classic is out of print but available at used bookstores. While a few concepts (like aurora shape categories) are out of date, the majority of the book’s easy-to-read introduction to aurora science is both solid and very useful–a great resource for any aurora chaser. Dr. T. Neil Davis was a professor and prominent aurora researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. We will be doing a Journal Club deep read of one of his scientific articles next month, and you’re invited! See below for registration.
|Storms from the Sun: The Emerging Science of Space Weather, by Michael J. Carlowicz and Ramon E. Lopez, 2002
What about the physics involved before an aurora lights the sky? Check out this introduction to the science of space weather by our colleagues Dr. Michael Carlowicz and Dr. Ramon Lopez. It’s a great foundation for heading into solar maximum!
|The Northern Lights: The true story of the man who unlocked the secrets of the aurora borealis, by Lucy Jago, 2001
At times sad, at others exciting, this biography of the dramatic life of early aurora scientist Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) provides a useful introduction to the history of formal, Western aurora science. Birkeland, who was from Norway, figured out that aurora is caused by particles from the Sun interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.
|Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery, by Caren Cooper, 2016
During difficult times, it can be helpful to be reminded of the power of people working together for a common cause. This book speaks to the positive difference communities can make together–and why it’s so easy to fall in love with this form of science. Be sure to also check out the free-to-watch companion documentary, The Crowd and the Cloud.
|The Cartoon Guide to Physics, by Larry Gonick & Art Huffman, 1991
Let’s be real, not everyone’s studied physics. Many of us haven’t cracked a physics book since high school, and it can be a little intimidating to revisit after so long. Enter this book: a humorous, beginner-level guide to the basics. For the fundamentals used in aurora science, be sure to check out the section called “Electricity and Magnetism.”
|Bonus book! Eclipse: A Journey to Darkness and Light by David H. Levy
Dr. Liz’s favorite eclipse book is by a famous citizen scientist who “recounts the recorded history of eclipses, how they have been perceived by ancient cultures, how they can be predicted, and how best to view them. In addition, he explains the science of solar eclipses and what can be gained by studying them. In a manner accessible to all readers, Levy recounts the story of nature’s most profound displays.”
We hope the books in this list help make aurora science easier to explore. (Thanks also to Aurorasaurus Ambassador Jeremy Kuzub for his suggestions!)
If you’re interested in delving deeper, you can join us on July 8 and 22 from 12-1pm ET (9-10am PT) for a Journal Club reading of the 1978 classic “Observed Characteristics of Auroral Forms” by T. Neil Davis. Register to attend here. And be sure to save the date for a second Journal Club, Sept 16 and 30, from 12-1pm ET (9-10am PT). We’re excited to learn more about these topics together! Check out past Journal Clubs here.