©Planeterrella The polar light simulator
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Presentation

This site is not meant to be a site on K. Birkeland. Some of those, much better documented on the subject, can be found on the bibliography page.

Former student of Poincaré, Birkeland loved deeply French, and wrote most of his scientific papers in French. He also wrote in English and, of course, in Norwegian : very proud of his country (still in its young), he was one of the first scientists to write science in his language. His PhD student, Störmer, used to write mainly in English.

Cyril Simon gathered here some of these documents. The National Library of France has scanned a large number of these. We can only welcome this extraordinary work of safeguarding the ancient manuscripts. They are all downloadable for free.

Finally, two presentations of the Planeterrella are presented here. One made for a very wide audience by J. Lilensten. The other made for an audience a little more keen on physics by G. Gronoff.

There is one scientific paper in english on the Planeterrella : The Planeterrella, a pedagogic experiment in planetology and plasma physics, Jean Lilensten, Mathieu Barthélemy, Cyril Simon, Philippe Jeanjacquot and Guillaume Gronoff , Acta Geophysica, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 220-2352008, DOI : 10.2478/s11600-008-0079-x, 2009
Abstract : We present here a plasma physics experiment which makes it possible to simulate, in a naive yet useful way, the formation of polar lights. It involves shooting electrons at a magnetized sphere placed in a vacuum chamber. This experiment, inspired by K. Birkeland’s Terrella, built at the turn of 19th century, allows the visualization of very many geophysical and astrophysical situations. Although delicate, it is feasible at undergraduate level.

PDF - 2.2 Mb
Presentation of the planeterrella carried out by Jean Lilensten
PDF - 1.1 Mb
Presentation of the planeterrella carried out by Guillaume Gronoff

Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG)