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Secret In Ancient Japanese Literature Revealed By Modern Science

Around a millennium and a half ago, ancient Japanese people were amazed to see red light that streaked over Japan’s night sky. Appearing as a fan of beautiful red feathers that were stretched throughout the sky, witnesses before said that it’s akin to the tails of a pheasant. Ever since, scientists tried to find out what caused the phenomena. And now, thanks to modern science, the answer may have already been found.

Ancient Japanese Secret

Consisting of a team of researchers from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, the team published their findings in the Sokendai Review of Culture and Social Studies on Tuesday, stating that the red light that looked like feathers may have actually been an aurora.

“It is the oldest Japanese astronomical record of a ‘red sign.’ It could be a red aurora produced during magnetic storms. However, convincing reasons have not been provided, although the description has been very famous among Japanese people for a long time,” Ryuho Kataoka, a researcher with the Department of Polar Science in the School of Multidisciplinary Sciences at Graduate University for Advanced Studies and the National Institute of Polar Research, said .

The problem with the theory, however, is that auroras don’t look like feathers. And so to better understand the phenomenon, the team decided to literally adjust their view since Japan magnetic latitude back then was at 33 degrees, compared to today’s 25 degrees. From there, the pheasant tails looked to be about 10 degrees long, which actually places it in the perfect spot for an area with magnetic storms.

“Recent findings have shown that auroras can be ‘pheasant tail’ shaped specifically during great magnetic storms. This means that the 620 A.D. phenomenon was likely an aurora,” Kataoka said. “This is an interesting and successful example that  modern science can benefit from the ancient Japanese emotion evoked when the surprising appearance of heaven reminded them of a familiar bird.”

For generations, pheasants have been culturally significant birds in Japan, appearing in many of their myths and folk tales, considered to be messengers of the heaven.

A general view of the aurora borealis near the city of Tromsoe in northern Norway. A general view of the aurora borealis near the city of Tromsoe in northern Norway.
Researchers found that being in awe made people more patient, more willing to help others and less materialistic.
Rune Stoltz/Reuteres





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