Wednesday, January 28, 2009
From Report of the Annual Meeting, British Assn. for Advancement of Science, 1853
1847. March 19. Extract of a letter from a lady.
On the evening of Friday, March 19, A. and I left Albion Road (Holloway) about half-past 8. A. called my attention to what we thought a fire-balloon ascending slowly. It was in the west, a little inclining to the south. As it passed on slowly to the west its intense brilliance convinced me that it was not an earthly thing. When it appeared to be over Hampstead (but as high in the heavens as the sun is at 6 o'clock in the evening when the days are longest), it shot forth several fiery coruscations, and whilst we were gazing at it, broke into an intensely radiant cloud. This cloud sailed on slowly, and we never took our eyes off it. At this time the stars were shining. When we were in the gravel path opposite to Highbury Terrace, the cloud was rather higher in the heavens, and more to the W. It cast a most brilliant light on the houses there, brighter than moonlight, and unlike any light I ever saw. It appeared of a blue tint on the bricks, but there was no blue light in the cloud itself.
Suddenly over the radiant cloud appeared another cloud still more brilliant, but I now felt so awe-struck that I cannot say precisely how long they hung one over the other, before the most wonderful sight happened. Perhaps they remained so for two or three minutes, when from the upper cloud a small fiery ball (about the size that the largest planets appear to the naked eye) dropped into the lower cloud, and was instantly absorbed. Soon after another similar ball apparently four or five times the size of the two preceding fell from one cloud to the other in the same wonderful way. Shortly after this both clouds disappeared, apparently absorbed in the heavens, though I did see a few particles of the brilliant clouds floating about for a minute or so. Presently the moon appeared considerably to the northward of the place where the clouds had hung. We then saw the bright light across the heavens which you told me was a zodiacal light, which lasted for more than an hour.