Northern Lights research in Alta
The history of research into the Northern Lights is quite dramatic. Those who took part were among the most eminent scientists in Norway and in the world in the 1800s and early 1900s.
The researchers were trying to win honour and fame for the nascent Norwegian nation around 1900. The research was important for the founding of Norway's largest industrial concern before the war – Norsk Hydro. The researcher Kristian Birkeland took the initiative by building the world's first Northern Lights observatory on the top of Mount Haldde in Alta. The mountain has a distinctive sharp point named after the guardian spirits (haldi) of the pre-Christian Sami religion. The choice of Haldde is due to the fact that a French expedition had carried out some ground-breaking research here 70 years earlier, in 1838-1839. The Haldde observatory is one of the oldest departments in what today is the Norwegian Arctic University – the University of Tromsø. The exciting story of one of the most beautiful and mysterious phenomena of the night sky is the theme of one of the exhibitions at Alta Museum.
Expedition Norvegienne: the title page of the book containing the research results of Kristian Birkeland’s first winter in Haldde. The "pure" Norwegian flag, without a trace of Swedish influence, underlines the strong national sentiments associated with the world's first Northern Lights observatory.