Clavis Aurorae:

making the upper atmosphere perceptible

fragments of an ongoing inquiry

This essay is a work in progress.

* * *

Auroras are amongst the only perceptible phenomena that make visible the materiality of the upper atmosphere and reveal the existence of sun-earth interactions. Departing from the elusive and ever-changing auroral display, this essay explores how the planetary atmosphere is made visible, how environmental imaginaries emerge (often through technoscientific apparatus) and how these contribute to novel ways of perceiving the environment.

The text takes the form of a clavis, or glossary of terms that gather different pieces of information, experiences, images and archival material, which we have encountered during field trips to the EISCAT ionospheric radar research stations in arctic Fennoscandia, through conversations with historians and atmospheric scientists, through archival research and readings — while searching for possible ways of relating and caring for our common atmosphere.

Rather than ‘explaining’ the aurora, the letters keep the text fragmentary and open-ended, offering the reader a multiplicity of different routes and connections, proposing layers of information, details and references rather than imposing priorities between ‘valuable’ and disposable, scientific and anecdotal.

* * *