The people of Rushden, Higham Ferrers, and the district, and, in fact, in most parts of the United Kingdom, were astonished at the wonderful amount of daylight with which they were favoured on Wednesday last. In this district we had over twenty hours’ continuous daylight, and in the more northerly parts of the country they would have even more. This is an experience which is probably unique as far as the present generation is concerned. Long before two o’clock on Wednesday morning it was broad daylight, and at ten o’clock at night it was much brighter than we sometimes have it at noon on a winter’s day. In Rushden, just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, women were to be seen sitting in front of their doors sewing without the aid of any artificial light whatever. Even at 10.30 it was beautifully light; in fact, at that hour people were to be seen in the streets reading comparatively small print. So light was the night long after sunset that scores of people were under the impression that we were enjoying a brilliant reflection of the Aurora Borealis, or “Northern Lights,” as they are popularly called. Indeed, on Thursday morning several of the London daily papers, “The Daily News” and “The Daily Chronicle,” for instance, described “the magnificent spectacle produced by the Northern Lights.” As a matter of fact, it was nothing of the kind. The remarkable phenomena which was witnessed on Wednesday is known by astronomers as the “Zodiacal Light.” The effect of the Zodiacal Light on Wednesday night was to prolong for a full hour or more the usual amount of daylight. It was really very funny to watch the cyclists and drivers of vehicles lighting their lamps at the scheduled time in broad daylight, which paled into insignificance the little artificial lights they were showing.
We might explain that the Zodiacal Light is a zone of luminosity, visible just after the sun has set or just before he rises, and it generally takes place at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. It is generally thought to be composed of cosmic particles whether of meteors or any other substance revolving independently round the sun, and reflecting his light. In order that the Zodiacal Light may be seen, a clear and dry condition of the atmosphere is absolutely necessary, otherwise, as is so often the case, the effect is very small and hardly noticeable. This week the atmospheric conditions at Rushden, and indeed throughout the country, have been peculiarly favourable for an effective display. On Tuesday night the Zodiacal Light was plainly observable at Rushden after the sun had set, and for an hour or two before sunrise on Wednesday the light was so brilliant as to give people who were about the impression that the sun had risen sixty or eighty minutes before he was due. Then on Wednesday night, at ten o’clock and even afterwards, crowds of people were walking up and down High-street, Rushden, in what was apparently broad daylight, the illumination in reality being the Zodiacal Light. A pearly glow suffused the northern sky, extending from the horizon to a considerable distance towards the zenith. It is really amusing to read in some of the morning and evening newspapers the errors into which the scribes have fallen in describing the phenomena as the Aurora Borealis an entirely different illumination, flashing intermittently in the northern sky in immense streamers of varying hues.