Aurora is the name given to a rumored advanced U.S. spyplane. It would be the successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Many conspiracy theorists as well as area 51 watchers claim to have seen this thing. Some facets of the reports do remain consistent, however.

Screeching noise. The aircraft is said to make a 'screeching' or 'screaming' noise, as opposed to the normal roar of a jet engine. One possible explanation for this is that the Aurora is equipped with a pulsed SCRAMjet, which (experts claim) would produce this sort of sound. It's sort of a higher-frequency and louder version of the sound produced by the V1 Buzzbomb of World War II fame.

Doughnuts-on-a-rope. Several observers have described a contrail which rather than being the normal linear cloudlike formation has, in addition, toroid clouds of smoke/vapor around the line at regular intervals. This, too, points to some sort of pulsed engine. One gentleman who claims he saw a 'black triangle' zip across and above the flight path of his airliner actually took a photo which does show such an exhaust trail.

Extremely fast. This would make sense. It has been hypothesized that the Aurora may be akin to the never-built Nazi 'Victory Bomber' in that it 'skips' across the top of the atmosphere, allowing it to travel without the problems of friction heating or drag. This is not without operational precedent; the X-15 actually flew high enough to be considered a spacecraft, using reaction thrusters for attitude control until it re-entered thicker air.

Does this plane exist? We don't know, yet (well, at least, I don't!). However, I consider it highly likely there is some sort of replacement for the SR-71 in advanced stages of development, if not actual operational use. Some circumstantial evidence for this:

  • The Air Force not only acquiesced to the deactivation of the SR-71 fleet, they actually turned down funding at a later date to reactivate several of them.
  • Satellites do not have the flexibility of a manned aircraft in obtaining imagery; you're restricted by orbital dynamics as well as the scarcity of resources - spysat time is one of the scarcest resources out there.
  • The F-117 Stealth Fighter was actually in operation for several years at Tonopah AFB (and tested at Area 51?) before being revealed to the general public. If a reasonably large force of combat aircraft can be 'hidden,' why not a smaller number of reconnaissance planes?
  • My favorite. Several years ago, there was a funny incident concerning FAA NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen). This is the central database of 'warnings' or informational announcements that might affect the safety of aircraft operating in the U.S. Anyhow, for a couple of days (apparently; I've seen what purports to be a copy of this but did not see it myself) there was a notice filed which warned of 'multiple unscheduled high-mach transits over the Los Angeles Basin at flight level 750 and above.' Flight level 750 is 75,000 feet, well in excess of the operational ceilings of even most fighter aircraft. However, a couple of days later, this notice vanished from the NOTAMS database, with another notice appearing with its number.
In addition to this, I have recollection of but no reference for an article which reported that careful examination of the aggregated seismic data for the Los Angeles basin showed a clear set of sonic boom trails which came in from the Pacific at various angles...all of which, if extended out in a straight line, terminated somewhere near Groom Lake and Area 51 - a famously secret U.S. Air Force facility.

Who knows? It's fun to watch for small things and try to piece them together.

Aurora (Also known as the Northern Lights and Southern Lights)

There are two types of astronomical aurora visible on earth: the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights). The Aurora Borealis is visible in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, while the Aurora Australis is visible in the lower latitudes of the southern hemishpere.

Other planets also display auroras, and they are visible from spacecraft and also from some astronomical observatories. Like the terrestrial auroras, these extra-terrestrial displays are linked with the magnetic fields of the planets concerned.

Viewed from the planet's surface, the aurora takes many forms, but a strong aurora is perfectly described by Carl Weyprecht, leader of an Austro-Hungarian expedition to Franz-Joseph Land in the 1870s. This description matches all modern, literal descriptions, and adds some poetry as well.

The Science

Scientifically speaking, the terrestrial aurora is the visible emissions from ionised atoms originating some 100 to 200 km above the earth's surface. The strongest emissions occur at the lower end of this band: around 110 km. Even at those altitudes, air is comprised mainly of oxygen and nitrogen. The visible colours are usually a yellow-green colour (557.7 nm), which is the first, (low-energy) oxygen emission line. When the display is especially active, the next oxygen emission line (630 nm) comes into play. This is in the orange part of the spectrum. Nitrogen contributes some red colour (661.1 nm up to 686.1 nm). It also contributes blue and violet colours, not often visible to the naked eye at wavelengths of 391.4 nm and 427.8 nm.

The ionisation energy comes from the solar wind: charged particles originating in the sun's corona, and rushing toward earth at 500 km/sec or more. These particles are very energetic, and have enough oomph to knock electrons off the atoms and molecules of air high in the atmosphere. Once an electron has been knocked off, the atom becomes electrically conducting (an ion). Enough of these charged atoms, and the whole upper atmosphere can become a huge electrical conductor. Because the pressure is low at those altitudes, the resulting low-pressure plasma can generate light much like a standard fluorescent tube light. (Note, The plasma in a fluorescent tube generates ultra-violet, and this stimulates a phosphor to give the nice white colour, but it's the same principle). Below around 90 km, the pressure is too high for good electrical conductivity, so this marks the lower limit of the auroral display.

Near the magnetic poles, the earth's magnetic field lines dip down from the magnetosphere and funnel into the ground. Furthermore, these lines are packed tighter together (which means a stronger field). Charged particles can spiral down these lines by the motor effect (magnetism, current and force).

These elements together give the conditions for an active aurora. A powerful solar wind which ionises the upper atmosphere and a strong magnetic field, with the field lines pointing down to earth.

Seen from space the earth's aurora appears as a circular or elliptical glow around the magnetic poles. The affected zone varies enormously in size, according to the power of the aurora, but is typically 200 to 300 km in diameter, although can be as large as 2000 km in a particularly active display. The light is visible from a further 2000 to 3000 km, before the curvature of the earth puts the light below the horizon. The best time to see an auroral display is close to local midnight

Although the human eye can only detect the auroral light at night time, it continues during the daylight hours, but is only visible to special sensors at those times.

Because a strong display depends on a large number of energetic particles coming from the sun, and striking the earth's magnetosphere, the best time to see a display is a couple of days after a strong magnetic storm on the sun (it takes that long for the particles to reach the earth). The strength and power of the solar wind is noted on a number of websites, and those who want to see an auroral display can sign up to newsletters which alert them to a powerful magnetic outburst.

Myths and legends

Some caves in southern France, where cro-magnon man lived 30 000 years ago have drawings thought to depict the northern lights. Chinese astronomers have systematic lists of displays starting in 687 BC. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) (Ezekiel 1) contains what I take to be a clear description of the aurora. There are many other descriptions in history and pre-history.

Indigenous people have their own myths. The Finnish word, revontulet, recalls a fire fox shedding sparks from its fur and brushing its tail in the snow, to cast the light into the sky. Other native people call upon the spirits. In Canada, the Inuit say that anyone who met a violent death will light his dangerous way to a final resting place with torches, which appear as the aurora. Some Canadian Inuit believe a fast-moving aurora is the dance of death.

In the Americas, one tribe referred to the lights as the souls of defeated enemies wishing to revenge their death. The Mandan Indians thought the aurora was a fire on which the spirits cooked their dead enemies.

A hero published by Marvel Comics. Aurora first appeared in in X-Men #120 in 1979.

Jeanne-Marie Beaubier and her twin brother Jean-Paul were born in Canada to unknown parents. After their parents were killed, Jean-Paul was adopted by friends of their parents, but Jeanne-Marie was placed in a strict Catholic boarding school. After the death of the people who adopted Jean-Paul, the two lost all contact with one another and would not meet again for many years.

Jeanne-Marie endured a harsh existence in the boarding school and while in her early teens attempted suicide by throwing herself from the top of the school. Unbeknownst to anyone, Jeanne-Marie was a mutant and her powers kicked at that moment, allowing her to fly safely to the ground. Believing that she was saved by God, Jeanne-Marie went the next morning to the head mistress of the school to tell her how God had saved her. Seeing Jeanne-Marie's claims as blasphemous, the nun did what any good upstanding member of the church would do when confronted with the idea that God had directly intervened in the life of another: she beat Jeanne-Marie and caused such deep psychological scarring that she developed split personalities.

Jeanne-Marie's personalities were diametrically opposed to one another. Jeanne-Marie was a shy, reserved person who hid behind glasses and was a bit of a wallflower. The other personality was brash and forward, flaunting her sexuality. She reveled in her powers and would often go out to bars and nightclubs, places that the reserved Jeanne-Marie would never go.

During this time, Jeanne-Marie while in her more brash personaility encountered the mutant Logan outside a bar, where she had used her powers to defend herself against a group of attackers. Logan brought her to James MacDonald Hudson, who was organizing a group of heroes for the government of Canada called Alpha Flight. Hudson brought Jeanne-Marie into his group and gave her the code name Aurora. He also was able to introduced her to her brother Jean-Paul, who had grown up to be a famous snow skier and joined Alpha Flight as Northstar. Both of the Beaubier twins shared the power to fly and move at incredible speeds They could also create a blinding light if the two held hands.

The twins fought along with Alpha Flight for many years. They often squabbled, and Aurora had a romantic relationship with her teammate Walter Lankowski, the Sasquatch. During this time, Aurora would occasionally slip back into her Jeanne-Marie personality that was scandelized by Aurora and her teammates. Eventually, Aurora had Lankowski experiment on her, so that she would no longer share abilites with her brother, as an act of spite toward Jean-Paul.

Soon after this, Alpha Flight encountered Loki, the Norse god of mischief. During this time, Loki convinced the Beaubier twins that they weren't mutants but part elves from Asgard. Aurora used her powers to help heal her brother from an illness and for a time seemed to lose her abilities. Jean-Paul traveled to Asgard to learn of his past, but later had to be rescued by his sister when he was captured by trolls (don't ask). Jean-Paul gave Aurora back her powers at that point and the two returned to Earth and worked with Alpha Flight from that time forward.

Science Fiction

Various science fiction shows, games, movies, etc. use the term as the name for space ships and other things. Mainly because aurora is an interesting atmospheric phenomenon that involves interaction between space and the air in the arctic and also the name of a greek goddess. So it quite easily fits the typical naming scheme that so many space ships in science fiction fall under.

Babylon 5

In Babylon 5 for instance there is the SA 23-E Aurora Starfury. It is a short range fighter and by the time Babylon 5 is set it had been in service for nearly twenty years. It mounts four 40mm pulse cannons, 2 rear firing 35mm pulse cannons and 8 fusion missles. It is an extremely agile craft and was designed, by the TV series's production crew, to look like the sort of thing you would want if you were designing a single person fighter in space. The central pilot cockpit and power battery assembly is connected by four pylons to large fusion jets with vector thrusters.

The Earth Alliance uses these fighters extensively throughout the series, midseries it introduces newer fighters like the Thunderbolt. The Aurora forms the backbone of the EA's space superiority.

Stargate Atlantis

In one episode of the Stargate spinoff SG: Atlantis, the cast find an Ancient warship drifting in space and are able to board and find the crew in a state of suspended animation. In a virtual environment, created to keep the minds of the Ancients active, Sheppard is able to convince them of their fate, of which they were unaware. They could not be retrieved from stasis as their bodies had grown too old. Sadly the ship itself was destroyed when it was forced to self destruct to destroy two Wraith cruisers. The class-name Aurora has been given to subsequent vessels of similar design.

Escape Velocity: Nova

The over arching name of the overcrowded empire of Aurora in the Galactic South of the game, EV: Nova. They are an analog to the Klingons in that they are 'warrior culture' which means they go around in small amounts of clothing, get large and painful looking tattoos depicting the battles they've won and demand that anyone who deals with them be capable of dealing with a fleet of battleships. They are also quite similar to Australians for a number of silly reasons. In the game mechanic they focus, like the Voinians of Override, on building better armor. Their ships are heavy and slow but armed to the teeth and very hard to kill. They also come with two different forms of guns: close range fusion pulse cannons and very long range rail guns that go from 100 mm to 200 mm rounds.

Au*ro"ra (?), n.; pl. E. Auroras (), L. (rarely used) Aurorae (). [L. aurora, for ausosa, akin to Gr. , , dawn, Skr. ushas, and E. east.]

1.

The rising light of the morning; the dawn of day; the redness of the sky just before the sun rises.

2.

The rise, dawn, or beginning.

Hawthorne.

3. Class. Myth.

The Roman personification of the dawn of day; the goddess of the morning. The poets represented her a rising out of the ocean, in a chariot, with rosy fingers dropping gentle dew.

4. Bot.

A species of crowfoot.

Johnson.

5.

The aurora borealis or aurora australis (northern or southern lights).

Aurora borealis (), i. e., northern daybreak; popularly called northern lights. A luminous meteoric phenomenon, visible only at night, and supposed to be of electrical origin. This species of light usually appears in streams, ascending toward the zenith from a dusky line or bank, a few degrees above the northern horizon; when reaching south beyond the zenith, it forms what is called the corona, about a spot in the heavens toward which the dipping needle points. Occasionally the aurora appears as an arch of light across the heavens from east to west. Sometimes it assumes a wavy appearance, and the streams of light are then called merry dancers. They assume a variety of colors, from a pale red or yellow to a deep red or blood color. The Aurora australis () is a corresponding phenomenon in the southern hemisphere, the streams of light ascending in the same manner from near the southern horizon.

 

© Webster 1913.

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