Parallel worlds

By Phil Plait | May 7, 2012 1:32 pm

I have got to get to Norway. Last year, on September 25, 2011 from Ifjord, Finnmark, Norway, photographer Tommy Eliassen took this jaw-dropping photo of the night sky:

[Click to enstupefyenate.]

I know, seriously, right?

The northern lights play along the right while the Milky Way itself hangs vertically next to it; parallel structures seemingly adjacent but separated by thousands of trillions of kilometers…

And to top it off, a meteor plinks across the sky between them. Meteors burn up about 100 km or so above our planet’s surface, which is at just about the same altitude that’s the lower limit of green aurorae. Amazingly, that meteor is probably the closest thing you can see in this picture above the clouds*.

You can see more of Eliassen’s amazing aurora pictures on his Facebook page or on 500px, where I originally found his work. Trust me, it’s time well spent.

Image credit: Tommy Eliassen, used by permission.

* Since it cuts across the two parallel background objects at an angle, it must be a skewting star.

Related Posts:

The green fire of the aurora, seen from space
January’s aurora from way far north
Faith and begaurora
The rocket, the laser, and the northern lights

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (17)

  1. Since it cuts across the two parallel background objects at an angle, it must be a skewting star.

    GROAN!!!!!!!!! ūüėÄ

    Having lived in that region of the world, I can attest to the mind numbingly amazing sights offered up! I need to make a trip back soon!

  2. Traveling to Norway is find for those who can af-fjord it…

  3. Tom

    What is that faint, fuzzy pink/purple glow to the lower right? More aurora? A comet tail? It wouldn’t be the zodiacal light, too colorful and too sharply spiked…

  4. Crux Australis

    Oh man I’d love to see one of those during my 5 nights in Denmark in August.

  5. M. Oestby

    Phil, why don’t you come over as a speaker at the annual norwegian skeptic’s conference next year then?
    You’d be more than welcome…

  6. Lars

    Oh man I’d love to see one of those during my 5 nights in Denmark in August.

    Sorry to crush (or at least dent) your hope, but Denmark is about 1500 km south of Finnmark. (Trivia of the day, Finmark has a greater land area than Denmark, and a population density of little more than 1% of Denmark’s.)

  7. Kieran Garland

    Oh my God.

    Everything I love about science, nature and the universe is blazed into pixels of that picture. It’s the best picture I’ve seen all year. Thanks for sharing, and bravo on such a fantastic blog. Your articles, and TV appearences, always lead me to a fresh understanding of science, as well as other fascinating science journalists, and, of course, (yes, truly) jaw-dropping photos like that. And, ye Gads, it’s a *photo*!

  8. Jeff

    Slartibartfast would be proud of that picture of Norway

  9. MadScientist

    If you’ve got some buddies you can stay with in Tromso, why not? Hmmm .. maybe even as far south as Hell would do. When I was in Norway I found it much cheaper to travel to Paris or London on the weekend than to travel to the fjords (and consequently I never did visit a fjord other than the Oslofjord).

  10. Nigel Depledge

    Stunning. Isn’t our universe amazing?

  11. To avoid cloudy skys I recommend Finland instead. Enjoy!

  12. Ron Richter

    Great picture! The text on his website says the streak is a satellite. He mentions 3 sat tracks but the other two are harder to see.

  13. Stargazer

    When I see amazing pictures like this, I am reminded by the scene where Ellie arrives at the simulated beach in Contact.

  14. “Oh man I‚Äôd love to see one of those during my 5 nights in Denmark in August.”

    First, as someone has already noted, Denmark is much farther south. Still, it’s at the same latitude as Hudson Bay, so far enough north to allow the northern lights to be glimpsed, though of course not as often as even farther north.

    However, in Denmark in August it does not get dark. (The sun sets, but even at its lowest point below the horizon it doesn’t get completely dark. As Roger Ebert says in his review of Bergman’s Persona, “In a Swedish summer, night is a finger drawn by twilight between one day and the next”. (Some of his reviews, especially those about Bergman’s films, are almost as good as the movies themselves. Read the full Persona review here: .)) Thus, while the place is not that bad, the time is. But there are many other reasons to visit Denmark.

  15. beer case

    *Shameless advertising my own country*

    Jon Claerbout got a point, though. Tromsoes proximity to the gulf stream, bring clouds and rain. Finland has a drier climate.

  16. Phil, you can see some amazing aurora without leaving the country! Check out Michigan’s Upper Peninsula some time. Head out to nowhere (which is no more than 10 minutes from anywhere in the UP) and you’ll not only have an amazing view of the stars, but can frequently see some splendid aurora as well!

  17. “However, in Denmark in August it does not get dark.”

    In Swedish, the Milky Way is the Winter Way (Vintergatan). Why, if it is brighter in the summer? Because the nights are so bright in the summer that one doesn’t see the Milky Way then, only in the winter, hence the name.


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