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Northern lights dance with a comet

Swedish photographer Goran Strand created a 10-image mosaic of the sun using a hydrogen-alpha filter on March 16, and then captured full-sky views of the northern lights over Ostersund during a four-hour period on March 17 for this time-lapse video. "The time lapse consists of 2,464 raw images for a total data amount of 30GB. ... All in all, this movie contains over 40GB of data that I've been processing over the last five days. Hope you enjoy it," Strand writes. Watch the video in full-screen HD for maximum effect. Music: "I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor," by Chris Zabriskie.



Talk about dancing with the stars: The glow of the northern lights danced through the night sky this week, thanks to a solar storm that swept past Earth over the past few days. Comet PanSTARRS, which is appearing a little bit farther north in western skies every evening, adds some extra sparkle.

The time around the equinox is considered the peak of the aurora season, because this time of year strikes a balance between the dark skies of winter and the more clement temperatures of summer. And although PanSTARRS may not have panned out the way some of the more optimistic skywatchers might have expected, it's still observable in the Northern Hemisphere — particularly if you're watching with binoculars from a vantage point far from city lights, with a clear view to the western horizon.


Sky & Telescope's PanSTARRS page helps you track the comet day by day, and you can always rely on SpaceWeather.com to have the latest, greatest pictures of PanSTARRS as well as the auroral glow.

For example, French photographer Sylvain Dussans managed to capture both phenomena in one glorious picture, taken from Norway's Senja Island.

Here are a couple more videos of the solar storm and the comet, as seen from Earth and space:

Chad Blakley, the photographer behind Lights Over Lapland, captured this time-lapse view of the northern lights and Comet PanSTARRS in Sweden's Abisko National Park on March 20 and posted the picture on Vimeo. "The auroras began as soon as the sun went down and continued to dance all night long," Blakley said in an email. "To say that we had an incredible night would be a huge understatement!" For best results, watch the video in HD at full-screen.

Chad Blakley / Lights Over Lapland

This closeup from Chad Blakley's video uses a black circle to highlight the comet's location. For more, check out Blakley's Lights Over Lapland page on Facebook.

This movie from NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, shows Comet PanSTARRS as it moved around the sun from March 10 to 15. The clip is repeated three times. The images were captured by the Heliospheric Imager, an instrument that looks to the side of the sun to watch coronal mass ejections as they travel toward Earth, which is the unmoving bright orb on the right. The bright light on the left comes from the sun, and the bursts from the left represent the solar material erupting off the sun.

More about the comet and the aurora:


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 and the rest of NBCNews.com's science and space coverage, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.