Two lovely aurora time lapse videos

By Phil Plait | January 25, 2012 2:54 pm

The solar storm that impacted Earth Tuesday produced a lot of auroral activity, though it’s hard to say if it was really that much stronger than usual. Still, any aurora is better than none… and I have two videos to show you!

The first was taken on January 22, and shows the effects of an earlier wave of subatomic particles spat out by the Sun. It was made in Birtavarre, Norway by Ørjan Bertelsen, who put together 1600 exposures to make it:

It’s amazing to get the three-dimensional effect as the sheets of glowing atmospheric molecules pass overhead, and you’re seeing them nearly edge-on. And I love picking out familiar constellations in videos like that; did you see Leo, Gemini, Cancer, and Taurus?

The second video was shot in Abisko National Park, Sweden, by Chad Blakley, and all I can think of as I watch it is how cold those people must have been!

As I mentioned in a radio interview on Tuesday, I’ve never seen a bright aurora. Once in Maryland I saw a reddish glow to the extreme north during a particularly big display, but that’s really about it. Someday, though, I’ll get a chance. As the Sun gets more active over the next two years I may very well finally see these magnificent light shows. After writing about them so much, I think I’ve earned it.

Tip o’ the parka hood to John Markus Bjørndalen.

Related posts:

The Sun aims a storm right at Earth: expect aurorae tonight!
Will you see the lights tonight?
Time lapse: The Aurora
JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!
Stunning Finnish aurora time lapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: aurorae, time lapse

Comments (19)

  1. Lars

    It seems the temperatures in Abisko haven’t reached below -20°C lately. So, not that cold. ;)

    Birtavarre has some lovely nature, and not only aurorae. Recommended for anyone who happens to pass by (well, um, in other words, almost nobody, then).

  2. zyggy


    I was just thinking that I need to be wealthy enough to take a trip “up north” on short notice when I read about a solar flare. Just drop everything and go.

  3. Kayla

    Hi Phil… This is pretty cool! We here in Alberta Canada had some pretty nice Northern Lights last night

    I have one question for you.. Have you seen the videos on YouTube about the “strange sounds reported worldwide”? Can you tell me what’s causing these sounds? Is it a hoax? They have me quite terrified!!

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Beautiful videos – thanks – can’t get enough of these. :-D

    I’ve never seen a bright aurora.

    Me neither. :-(

    I’d love to & apparently very rarely they have been visible from where I live but never managed to see one. Really hope to get the chance to do so someday.

    After writing about them so much, I think I’ve earned it.

    Yep, I think you have. :-)

    Maybe on one of your trips far north or south you’ll see one?

  5. Kayla

    Hi Phil… This is pretty cool! We here in Alberta Canada had some pretty nice Northern Lights last night

    I have one question for you.. Have you seen the videos on YouTube about the “strange sounds reported worldwide”? Can you tell me what’s causing these sounds? Is it a hoax? They have me quite terrified!!

  6. Hi folks in the US,
    in Germany many people were very excited about the long duration flare on the sun and the CME as it promised aurora even over country. But this is nature, in many parts of our country it was cloudy and in other parts we had a wonderful night sky, but no aurora was visible to the naked eye.
    But Maciej Liebert was able to create a time lapse video at the island of Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea, one of the most northern areas of Germany. It shows the aurora just above the horizon on the sea, maximum height is perhaps 5°-10°. Here is the link: (might need some download time, as it is 20 MB). So we had “photographic aurora” at least in our country as well!
    Best regards
    from Bad Lippspringe in Germany

  7. Jason A.

    Ah, you like the 3D look, eh? I filmed part of Sunday night’s aurora with 2 dSLR’s fitted with all-sky lenses from two different locations ~15km apart for the stereoscopic view, but I haven’t had the chance to combine them yet – not really sure the best way to do that when you’re talking about something that has single emission lines rather than a broad spectrum. But here’s one of the two videos, it has a lot of that edge-on view. If I can successfully make the 3D video it should be pretty great.

  8. Georg

    “”After writing about them so much, I think I’ve earned it.””

    That is very Catholic thinking.

    -I gave so much money to the church, I deserve
    shortened purgatory.

    -I prayed this number of Aves, I deserve heaven,

    – I treaded thousands of miles as a jogger/biker,
    I deserve long and healthy life.

    Non of this self betrayals works :=(

  9. Daniel J. Andrews

    Phil, the closet Catholic. Who knew. :)

    I do hope you get to see the aurora. Of course it’ll probably be on a night when you have to be up early the next a.m. for something important. You’ll watch, reluctantly drag yourself to bed, lie there wondering what you’re missing, maybe peek out a curtain, lie down and sigh, toss a bit, debate with yourself and finally get up and dressed and head back outside, maybe with the encouragement of your wife who tells you to just go outside and quit bothering her with your tossing and turning–I believe the words used were, “Just go outside and play with your friends….they’re probably still up too”.

  10. Wayne on the Plains

    Find yourself a reason to visit IRF and/or esrange near Kiruna, Sweden. As long as it’s not summer, you have a decent chance to see aurora there. I spent many weeks there as a grad student, and saw some amazing light shows.

    The most surprising thing about it to me, that I haven’t really seen represented in stills or videos, is how quickly it changes IN REAL TIME. I suppose time-lapse is the only way to make them show up good in a camera, but it gives the impression that the movement is very steady when it can actually jump around and wiggle like something alive just looking up at it.

  11. Jeff

    I actually saw a very bright aurora all-night event in March 1989 in Orlando, Florida. It was not a wimp at all, but a full blown great aurora that rivaled those in the arctic with all shapes and colors, I stade up all night that night. So they can penetrate the USA in rare sun events.

  12. Kayla – “I have one question for you.. Have you seen the videos on YouTube about the “strange sounds reported worldwide”? Can you tell me what’s causing these sounds? Is it a hoax? They have me quite terrified!!”

    Hi Kayla,
    I live in Alaska and have observed the aurora numerous times. Out of those, I have once heard them. I understand that the atmosphere is too thin to transfer sound from the aurora, but there was definitely a sound. I’ve read theories that its an interaction with fluids in the ear that cause the sound, and others that its just our imagination associating the visual with the sound. To me, this sound was absolutely real. In fact, I grabbed my cell-phone to try and make a recording over it, but the cold temperature had already killed the battery in it.

    It was an intimidating sound. I’ve described it as an electric flag flapping in the wind. I’d love for research to explain to me what I heard that night, and why I don’t hear it every time I see the aurora.

  13. BCFD36

    About 40 seconds in, about half way up from the center to the top, an about half way from the left to the center, there is a reddish colored flare. It doesn’t move at all and shows up several times. Is this a cloud??

    BTW, in about 1991 or so I was flying from Seattle to Oslo in February. I believe I saw the aurora then, but it was purple in color.

    D. Scruggs

  14. Brad

    That’s probably an internal lens reflection, it is directly opposite the fire and seems to brighten when the fire does.

    Re the sounds, the movement of the aurora can be far faster than the speed of sound so I don’t see why it couldn’t produce a shock wave in the upper atmosphere that could propagate as a normal sound wave to ground level, the same way that thunder does. It should be possible to record sound, verify that it is truly due to acoustic waves rather than magnetic or electric fields, and calculate time delays from visible changes to sound reception to verify this.


  15. Trebuchet

    Gorgeous video!

    One of the few auroras I’ve seen was red. It was like moving spokes of a wheel, centered on the north. Quite awe inspiring. I understand the local emergency folks got lots of fire calls saying the whole town to the north (whichever was north of them) was on fire. And we’re not all that far north, only about latitude 48.

  16. Bartman

    In the 2nd video there is a point at the 50 second mark where they all line up and raise their arms to the heavens. Haunting!


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