In Germany and elsewhere refracting theodolites and transit instruments are sometimes employed.
If an auroral arc represented a definite selfluminous portion of space of small transverse dimensions at a uniform height above the ground, its height could be accurately determined by observations made with theodolites at the two ends of a measured base, provided the base were not too short compared to the height.
Theodolites are designed to measure horizontal angles with greater accuracy than vertical, because it is on the former that the most important work of a survey depends; measures of vertical angles are liable to be much impaired by atmospheric refraction, more particularly on long lines, so that when heights have to be determined with much accuracy the theodolite must be discarded for a levelling instrument.
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