This otherworldly timelapse of the Aurora Borealis is astonishing

Originally published at: This otherworldly timelapse of the Aurora Borealis is astonishing | Boing Boing


i’m not one for bucket lists, but if i had to make one, seeing the aurora with my own eyes is definitely something i’d like to do. until now, i didn’t realize that probably every video i’ve seen of them has been sped up dramatically. i thought it just moved like smoke in still air, but apparently it’s much slower than that.


It will be one of your greatest memories, it is for me.


Ave Maria Aurora Borealis

1 Like

Their speed changes from moment to moment. Sometimes they will be stable for minutes at a time and then gradually dissolve or appear to peel away from the sky in front of you. And you have to keep looking around because they will be fading and brightening in different parts of the sky at the same time.

The biggest difference between real life and photos is that the colours to the naked eye are usually much more muted - almost grey for much of the time, it is only as they brighten that colours appear with green first, then pink and very occasionally a brilliant red.

But if you do get a chance, go somewhere REALLY cold and REALLY dry for the best chance to see them. I would normally say, Northern Finland, but I’ve just come back from a week in the Arctic with 4k equipment and the best we got was a faint green band low in the northern sky. Conversely, last autumn, on Snæfellsnes, Western Iceland - a place notorious for rain - we got the best display I have ever seen on a night when the Sun was apparently quiet. Photos below - not my best - guess who forgot to take the right tripod head with him and had to shoot handheld?

And don’t rule out seeing them on night flights at high latitudes over the Atlantic and Pacific. If you can, get a seat on the side of the plane that will look north - and hope!

It really is magical - even the hunt for them can be thrilling, hoping the sky will clear, the rain and snow will hold off and that you can remember the way back to civilisation afterwards - I hope you get to see them one day.


wow! thank you for sharing. i’ve heard Iceland is a great place to see them, too. that’s where i’d like to go to try and see them – and apparently it’s quite affordable now. guess i need to renew my passport first, though. i accidentally let it expire, ugh.


I grew up in central Maine and had the good fortune to see the Northern Lights several times when I was younger. Once it was so bright I was woken from a dead sleep. I thought it was a UFO and woke my parents up. My dad and I went outside and watched until they faded away. One of my best memories. They usually appeared in the dead of winter, but a couple of times I saw them in late August not long after sunset. One of those times was when they were the most colorful; not just the usual greenish.


Although the Icelandic tourist authorities would say different, it isn’t necessarily the best place to see them because it gets so much rain and the skies are rarely entirely clear. It can be a bit of a crapshoot to see the lights - especially if you hang around Reykjavík which is cloudier and with more light pollution from the vast metropolitan area. I have caught the lights in Reykjavík - where the authorities sometimes dim street lighting for a truly spectacular show - but I have never seen a good display without getting out of the city and over the mountains.

Your best bet of seeing them in Iceland is to head north towards Akureyri and Myvatn in the middle of winter where the weather is at its coldest and clearest - and there are many fewer tourists. Settlements are few and far between, so it is easy to find a nice dark place to wait for the sky to go berserk.

If you want to be very adventurous, a trip along Tröllaskagi towards my favourite town of Siglufjörður will almost certainly give you at least one night where the lights come out. And even if they don’t, the landscape in that part of Iceland is awe-inspiring even on that country’s over-achieving standards.

Iceland is a bit cheaper than it was before the 2008 crash, but prices are rocketing for things like car hire and hotel space because demand is so much higher than it used to be. It’s not quite Norway expensive, but it is still an expensive place to go. Check deals before booking, you can sometimes get some good offers through Icelandair which include hotels and car hire.

It is absolutely one of the best and craziest places on Earth - even though it often feels like you’ve left the planet.


Could have done without the typical building, drum-pounding faux Philip Glass music that’s been everywhere the last ten+ years. The kind used in every bank and insurance commerical. It’s like Coldplay does classical music.

(yes I have a volume control and I used it)

1 Like

North Finland is awesome as well - these were taken just out of Utsjoki within sight of the Norwegian border.


Amazing, all that beauty from sun farts.


this is all great info. thank you!

ooh, gorgeous! ok, Finland is now also added to the list of options. Thanks!


I muted the song after like 2 notes.

I don’t understand the logic employed by youtubers providing no-dialog, visual content thinking that I’m at all interested in their musical taste. lightning doesn’t strike twice like that. I’m here for what you listed in the title, not

Back in the before times I’d regularly fly from Chicago to Munich, and depending on weather the arc would take you up over Greenland. On a few occasions in winter I was able to catch the Aurora out the window.

Just an add on, very rarely the Aurora would be visible from Ireland. I remember my grandmother telling us all to try to find a cross in the aurora. When asked why she said because if we saw one it meant we were going to die soon. Nice thing to tell kids.

Also, handy Aurora tool. You can set up to get text alerts if there is a good probability of seeing one.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.