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Northern lights boosted by 'The Blob'

Thomas Kast

The northern lights glow over a snowy Finnish landscape in a photo taken on the night of Jan. 16-17 by Thomas Kast. Watch the time-lapse video on Vimeo.



"The Blob" from the sun has come and gone, sparking nothing more than beautiful views of the northern lights — and there could be more blobs to come.

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center reported that a "plasma blob" of electrically charged particles was thrown out from the sun in Earth's direction — but that the outburst, also known as a coronal mass ejection or CME, wouldn't disrupt satellite systems or electrical power grids when it swept past us on Thursday.


The blob did register on the geomagnetic scale, but well below hazardous levels, just as the center predicted. And although there were no flashy light shows reported in America's Lower 48 states, the northern lights were dancing in high-latitude regions. Thomas Kast caught his first aurora of the new year in the skies over Rokua in Finland.

Kast said the vantage point for the picture you see here is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from his home — and the temperatures dipped down to 16 below zero Fahrenheit (-27 degrees Celsius). "I spent more than four hours at that spot," Kast said. "It takes time, but it's so rewarding."

If you like the picture above, you'll love the video version that Kast has just posted to his Vimeo gallery. To see more of Kast's photos, check out his Facebook page as well as his posting to SpaceWeather.com's aurora gallery.

Göran Strand saw this week's auroral show from the Kall area in the Swedish municipality of Åre, where the temperature was 11 below zero F (-24 degrees C). "When we arrived at the location and stepped out of the car, a moose stepped out of the forest and looked at us, and it looked a bit surprised finding us there in the middle of the night," Strand said in an email.

"It turned out to be a fantastic night with a half moon that lit up the landscape in a lovely way," Strand told SpaceWeather.com." In the background you can the mountain Åreskutan, the biggest ski resort in Sweden."

For more astrophotography from Strand, click on over to his Astrofotografen website and his Facebook page.

Goran Strand

Swedish astrophotographer Goran Strand captured this view of an aurora lighting up the night sky above a moonlit landscape. The constellation Orion, the Pleiades and the planet Jupiter also gleam in the skies above.

Stian Rekdal

The northern lights compete with the city lights of Ă…lesund, Norway, in a picture taken by Stian Rekdal.

Meanwhile, in Norway, Stian Rekdal lucked into a glittering photograph of natural and artificial lights.

"It was taken from the viewpoint of Fjellstua (literal translation, 'the mountain lodge'), which is approximately 400 feet above the town of Ålesund," Rekdal wrote in an email. "Aurorae are not as common here as farther north. This part of Norway is also prone to cloudy weather, further decreasing the odds of spotting them. So last night was a rare treat."

Check out more of Rekdal's aurora imagery at the 500px photo website, or the Vimeo video portal. As a bonus, you can feast your eyes on Rekdal's Vimeo video below — but be sure to watch it at full-screen and high-resolution. Then click through our slideshow of the greatest hits from the northern (and southern) lights.

Click through stunning images of the auroral displays created by geomagnetic storms.

The Space Weather Prediction Center says that two more coronal mass ejections are heading toward Earth — but like the earlier plasma blob, these outbursts "are not expected to be very strong." To find out where auroral displays are expected to glow, check NOAA's Ovation chart, the prediction center's website, the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute's aurora indicator or SpaceWeather.com. And if you snap a great picture of the aurora, feel free to share it via the Cosmic Log Facebook page or NBC News' FirstPerson photo upload page.

Update for 3 a.m. ET Jan. 21: Aurora photographer Chad Blakley took the stunning still imagery he captured on Jan. 19 and assembled into this must-see time-lapse video on Vimeo. "The solar blob you wrote about last week has made its way to Earth!" he wrote in an email. For more, check out Blakley's Lights Over Lapland website and Facebook page.

More auroral glories:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.