Night Into Day (Feb, 1947)

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Night Into Day

With the activation of gases in the Ionosphere, we’ll have eternal day.


A NEW radiance may soon pour-down from the night sky, dispelling the darkness and changing the life of mankind in the future. This light, the brilliant glow of activated gases in the Ionosphere, is now a definite scientific possibility.

Professor Etienne Vassy, Maitre de Conference of the Faculty of Sciences, Sorbonne University, Paris, has set imaginations soaring with his new theory. He proposes to shoot a power ray 50 miles into the air, up into the thin gases of the Ionosphere, activating these gases and causing them to glow with a neon-like light. An artist’s conception of this effect upon the business section of New York City is shown in the accompanying photograph. In this island of light, people could work without artificial illumination.

The basis of this theory is sound. The strange colorful glow of the Aurora Borealis, and of the dimmer lights which astronomers find faintly shining in the heavens between the stars, and which they call “the background light of the sky,” have been duplicated by Dr. Joseph Kaplan in his Los Angeles laboratory. Dr. Kaplan has gained this effect using only the rarer gases which constitute the higher layers of the air.

Further research, however, is necessary to learn the best type of ray to shoot into the air, how much radiation is necessary, and the best technique of directing from any earth point a beam of this activating radiant energy. When these problems are solved, an illuminated canopy will be created by the activated gases, directed over a defined area that will cover it with a soft sweet light.

How far has science gone towards these solutions? The tests which the Army is conducting in New Mexico, shooting the V-2 rockets one hundred and more miles into the air, will give part of the answer. They will tell how much radiant energy of the sun is absorbed and lost as the earth’s atmosphere is penetrated. More and more studies of fluorescent lighting will help. Control which is gained over electronic beams, passed through powerful electromagnetic fields of force, will add to the picture. All studies into the accurate directing of radiant energy will build toward this further proof that the future of man lies in the upper air.

Some indication of the power required to wring this light from the heavens was given Mechanix Illustrated by Dr. Louis M. Heil, director of the department of Physics, Cooper Union School of Engineering, New York City.

“Assuming,” said Dr. Heil, “that a circle one and one-half miles in diameter (approximately the lighted area in the accompanying photograph) were to be irradiated with an even strength of ten foot-candles (about the light that falls upon a book from a good reading lamp), 490 million lumens must fall upon it. To produce this number of lumens from a neon, or from a fluorescent lamp, an input of ten million watts would be necessary. This is, of course, ten thousand kilowatts, which is, in terms of electric power production, a negligible amount.

“This figure is, of course, ideal—it assumes no loss, by absorption or dispersion, of the power going up into the air, or the light coming down to the earth. It is impossible at present to calculate these losses. The complete figure may be double, triple or even quadruple the calculated ten thousand kilowatts. Energies are easily within our reach.”

  1. fluffy says: December 13, 200712:06 pm

    Dr. Heil? More like Dr. Hell. Which is how it’d feel to be in eternal sunshine.

    Also, what’s non-artificial about that?

  2. Andy S. says: December 13, 200712:16 pm

    I guess it didn’t work?

    And what’s a “power ray”, anyway? If you could safely beam power from place to place wirelessly, wouldn’t power cables be a thing of the past?

  3. glindsey says: December 13, 200712:30 pm

    Ah yes, a “power ray”. You know, just like the superheroes can make!

  4. Richard C says: December 13, 20074:51 pm

    OK, let’s suspend disbelief long enough to believe it’s possible to make the upper atmosphere light up like they say. It’s still not going to look at all like that artist’s conception, which shows a spotlight beamed onto the ground. There won’t be a stark line between dark and light on the ground, unless you put a focusing lens/mirror and shade up in the upper atmosphere, too.

    The light source would presumably emit light more-or-less equally in all directions. If you provide good light to the 1.5 mile circle on the ground, you’ll also have to spill a lot of light onto the surrounding tens of miles.

    That has some pretty enormous implications on the power required to get the desired intensity.

    No more stargazing from NYC (not that skyglow allows much stargazing from metropolitan areas today, anyway).

  5. Snud says: December 13, 20077:53 pm

    “Power ray” must be one of those French scientifical terms they use to confound and confuse us mere mortals.

  6. Stannous says: December 14, 200712:13 am

    It sounds like he’s trying to create artificial aurorae. Though bright they don’t give much ‘daylight’ as described here.

  7. MC says: December 14, 20077:47 am

    In the 1950s there were several schemes for “eternal daylight” using light reflected from large satellites or other sources, and they were vigorously opposed for several reasons:

    (1) Losing sight of the night sky might mean the end of astronomical science in the United States, not to mention loss of the pleasure of seeing the stars.

    (2) Biological/ecological harm. You think people have insomnia now? And what about the birds and flowers?

    (3) Loss of the ability to see approaching aircraft. An enemy attacker’s dream…

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