OK, because I like y'all: bonus aurora timelapse video

By Phil Plait | March 30, 2011 2:00 pm

I got a few emails about this while on vacation, and APOD just posted it too, but what the heck: a gorgeous timelapse video of aurorae (northern lights) over Norway:

This one was done by Terje Sorgjerd, and is quite lovely. Another great timelapse aurora video can be found at Lights in the Dark, too. I still have never seen a good display myself in person (just a smear of red light to the north once when I lived in Maryland), but one day I will. One day.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (29)

  1. Scott Davis
  2. Rich
  3. Never seen one myself either….one a’ these days. Thanks for the linkage! :)

  4. Yogzotot

    Simply beautiful. For me aurora borealis is the perfect example for the beauty of nature, ‘despite’ we exactly know its scientific mechanism. This knowledge doesn’t diminish its beauty, it enhances it.

  5. John

    Very beautiful. So uplifting. What a great way to start the day. Thanks BA!

  6. Alan D

    The two videos are marvelous, but nothing can compare to seeing one with your own eyes. I’ve been fortunate enough to see several fine displays, and I feel very overdue for another!

    Clear skies, Alan

  7. Joe Alvord

    I’ll trade you one great night of aurora for 3 days of spring

    Joe in Alaska

  8. Wow… Just right for going to bed!

  9. Leonardo Atilano

    I’ve just went to Whitehorse, Canada, just to see the Auroras for my 40th birthday.. they were awesome! although not as spectacular as the ones on the video.
    I’ve just want to see more of them…

  10. I spent a few weeks down south of the Antarctic circle a couple of years ago. Didn’t see the Southern Lights once. Not. One. Single. Time. Bummer.

    This truly extraordinary video is just rubbing it in. Gosh it is beautiful.

  11. Bob T

    I have seen it from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. The lights are fantastic. If its

  12. Bob T

    I have seen it from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. Its fantastic. If it is very quiet you can convince yourself that you can hear the aurora.

    Great time lapse.

  13. othercat

    The best display of aurora borealis I’ve ever seen was in Quebec, about 100km north east of Ottawa. The southernmost lights were at the zenith. Best of all, there were many different colours besides the typical green or red that we see in temperate North America.

  14. Ian S

    some thing that has always confused me is that the green colour is given out by ionised oxygen, but oxygen is only 21% of the air so why are the aurora dominated by oxygen emmissions rather than nitrogen which is far more abundent at ~79%? I know Oxygen is chemical much more reactive than Nitrogen but surely that doesn’t make it more likly to ionise does it?

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    Superluminous. :-)

    Thankyou Bad Astronomer (or do you prefer Phil?) :-)

    We like you too! ūüėČ

  16. Anchor

    Phil, if you ever get to see a really energetic display with colorful curtains, writhing bands and streamers and what look like ‘flickering flames’ apparently shooting RAPIDLY UPWARD (!) at zenith, I promise, you will be blown away and the experience will leave an indelible mark. The only thing I’ve ever observed in the sky that was more captivating was the total solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 from north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico….and that spellbinding sight lasted barely 6 minutes. A great aurora display can carry on for HOURS.

    Hope you catch one some night…

    Actually, its such a phenomenal experience you ought to consider a trip northward into the auroral zone (during the optimum conditions in the fall) as the Sun peaks this cycle. It wouldn’t require a big spiel trip to Canada hoping to catch a good display, like over a vacation period – the very energetic CME’s that strike Earth tend to expand the auroral ring and shove most of the action toward more southerly latitudes (say, like Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan) so you could easily prepare for a quick jaunt northwards as soon as news of a major CME has erupted and is coming our way. It takes a bit of flexibility in the planning and good luck with the weather (great displays easily deliver as much light as a full Moon, so unless the Moon is itself near full, it won’t bother it much – any time during last and first quarter is choice). You would have something like 20 to 40 hours before it arrived to get to a good spot – only a matter of a few hundred miles’ drive north from your location could nail it.

    Here in rural southern Wisconsin I’ve witnessed a few dozen displays over the last two Solar maxima, of which three were definitely in the awesome category. A great display involves the entire sky…definitely worth a reasonable effort to get under the main action. And by all means bring a camera+tripod that can take long exposures….unlike total solar eclipses, you’ll have lots of time to fiddle with it and grab some splendid shots.

  17. looseyarn

    never seen a blue one, and only a moment of red, usually they come in the green form here in S.Finland and only near solar maximum. but maybe someday.

  18. dcsohl

    The tracking shots – where the camera is slowly but smoothly moving during the course of the time lapse – are amazing. I’d love to know what sort of equipment was used for that.

    I’ve seen the aurorae on two occasions in my life… a cruise to Alaska in 2001, and there was about a week or so in … 1989? Definitely March but might have been ’88 or ’90… when the sky just went nuts. I remember looking up at the stars as a cloudbank rolled in and thinking that was it for the night until I realized that the “cloudbank” was glowing, and I could see the stars through it. A sheet of white aurora covering the entire sky – and this was in southern Connecticut. The following couple of nights also had good displays (mostly large amorphous patches of red in the northern part of the sky), but nothing like that first night.

    But I’ve never seen the ribbons or any sort of real motion from the lights. I’d love to see something like that.

  19. sjc345

    On some of these, you see the snow light up bright white – is this where the cloud clears and the moon is lighting it, or is this the aurora lighting the ground?

  20. Chas, PE SE

    What I want to know is: What is the blue light in the tree at 1:38?? It remains fixed in the tree, changing bearing on the Moon as the camera moves, so I do not think it’s an astronomical object….

  21. Teshi

    I think the bright white snow is cars passing.

  22. The music in this video makes me feel like I’m on Pandora.

  23. Catalyst

    That video was [expletive deleted] awesome! But why am I telling you? I’ll just tell Terje at his site. Thanks for the tip!

    Btw, I have only ever seen the aurora once. I was wandering around in the mountains one night in 2003. Gorgeous night. The Moon was low and full, making the high icy clouds turns into wisps of glowing diamond light, framing the sky on one side with mountains on the other. And in the center, faint red drapery, gossamer threads of color with here and there a hint of green – a taste of the glory of a full aurora. That image has been in my mind ever since that night.

    Which is nice, but why tell you? That night that I saw the aurora, I was lost in the woods somewhere between Loveland and Estes Park.

  24. Cindy

    Stunning! Words can’t describe how beautiful this is!

  25. Ashok

    overwhelmingly beautiful!

  26. Michigan Suzy

    How can you see this and still say there is no God?
    Just a thought…
    for my atheist friends.


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