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Planet looks back at northern lights

Goran Strand

Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden, took a panoramic photo of Tuesday night's sights and wrapped it into a 360-degree composition titled "Planet Aurora."




The skies are settling down after this week's big solar storm, leaving behind a gallery of green-glowing pictures as a lasting legacy.

For a time on Tuesday, the solar radiation levels registered as the highest in more than eight years, but the most significant impact came in the form of shifts in airline routes to avoid polar disruptions in communications. Strong solar storms have the potential to disrupt electrical grids and satellite operations, but no big problems were reported on those fronts this week.


"Conditions are now beginning to trend back toward quiet levels," the experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center reported today. By Thursday, geomagnetic activity is expected to be back down to background levels.

The bright northern lights associated with the storm wowed observers in Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland, but the show "petered out almost completely by the time it reached North America," SpaceWeather.com's Tony Phillips reported. Oh, well. At least we have the photographs captured by those who did get in on all the fireworks.

One of the most unorthodox views comes from Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden, who took a panoramic photo of the northern lights and wrapped the sights into a 360-degree composition titled "Planet Aurora." The picture shows a photographer standing on a snowy circle, with trees bristling around the edge and ripples of red and green light glowing in the surrounding sky.

"Me and a friend went out to capture the beauty, and what a show it was," Strand told SpaceWeather.com. "I made two panoramas of my friend while he was taking pictures." Check out this page to see how the wide-screen panorama compares with the 360-degree planet view. While you're at it, visit Strand's AstroFotografen website, and don't miss the other images in SpaceWeather.com's aurora gallery.

Here are a few videos featuring views of the northern lights:

The northern lights shine in photos from Fairbanks, Alaska. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports on the spectacular light show over northern Europe.

Photographer Chad Blakley shot this video over the course of three hours in Sweden's Abisko National Park. It shows eight photographers participating in the "Lights Over Lapland" aurora photo expedition. "We had a fantastic night!" Blakley writes. Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

Norway's Orjan Bertelsen says this time-lapse video draws upon 1,600 still images. Auroras 22.01.12 Birtavarre Norway from Orjan Bertelsen on Vimeo.

More auroral glories:


Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter or adding Cosmic Log's Google+ page to your circle. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for other worlds.