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Northern lights caught on video

Michael Ericsson Visuals

An auroral display dominates the sky over Tibbitt Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories on the night of Aug. 6.

Last week's solar storms sparked auroral displays as far south as Colorado and Nebraska over the weekend, but the best viewing was available way up north — for example, Canada's Northwest Territories, where photographer Michael Ericsson captured this amazing picture.

"It's one of the better spots in the world to see the aurora," Ericsson told me over the phone today from Yellowknife. He says you can see the northern lights on pretty much any clear night, "if you're out for enough hours."


Ericsson knew that the weekend would be prime time for aurora-viewing, thanks to a series of solar eruptions that started on Aug. 2. The outbursts didn't cause significant disruptions in satellite operations, communications or power grids, as some had feared, but they put on a heck of a show over Tibbitt Lake, where Ericsson set up his camera equipment. He put together a time-lapse series of the auroral display — shot at three-second intervals with a Nikon D3s at ISO 6400 — to produce this must-see video. (Make sure you're seeing this in PhotoBlog's wide-screen format.)

Ericsson says he's seen brighter auroral displays, particularly during the long northern winter, but this one was special nevertheless. "It's really neat getting a summer aurora, because in Yellowknife we're still not getting complete darkness," he told me, "and that's part of the reason why I didn't see it as the most intense aurora."

He and a couple of friends traveled to Canada's Nunavut territory in April to document the northern lights there and also gather some oral history from the local elders. Here's yet another must-see video that features the sights of the lights and the sounds of Alice Ayalik, telling tales of the aurora in her native tongue:

Check out Ericsson's Vimeo website as well as his blog and MichaelEricsson.com for much, much more from the Great White North.

Ericsson wasn't the only one to catch last weekend's show. Yuichi Takasaka's time-lapse video offers a subtler look at the aurora, punctuated by passing clouds and airplanes. Takasaka specializes in views of the night sky, focusing on the northern lights as well as noctilucent clouds and the International Space Station. This view of the Aug. 5 aurora was captured from Burton Campground in British Columbia:    

Yuichi Takasaka captured this time-lapse view of the Aug. 5 aurora from British Columbia's Burton Campground.

Check out Takasaka's Blue Moon Promotions website for more.

SpaceWeather.com offers a whole gallery of photos and videos featuring this month's auroral displays, and the show may not be over just yet: Just today, the most powerful flare in years blasted out from the sun. The flare was not directed toward Earth (which is a good thing), but it still might spark a fresh wave of auroras later this week. To learn more about how auroras arise, and how best to see them, check out this FAQ page from the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute.

More about auroras:


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