January/February 2020

ATW IraqIRAQ: Assyrian astronomers gazing at the sky almost 2,700 years ago were the first people to document the colorful cosmic phenomena known as auroras. These light shows, known in the Northern Hemisphere as the northern lights, appear when waves of charged particles from the sun collide with the earth’s magnetic field. When a massive solar wave hit the earth in the early 7th century B.C., the effects were visible as far south as Mesopotamia. Three cuneiform tablets from Nineveh record this unusual event, documenting a strange “red glow,” “red cloud,” and “red sky.”