Aurora Borealis

January 31, 2012 by staff 

Aurora Borealis, The best aurora videos often use time-lapse photography, which speeds up the dancing lights to make them seem more dramatic. If you’re curious what they look like in real time, though — especially during a big solar storm like the one that bombarded Earth last week — you won’t want to miss this new video from northern Norway:

The video was filmed by photographer Alister Chapman on Jan. 24, which turned out to be a banner day for northern lights. The aurora borealis displays were triggered by a powerful solar flare that had erupted from the sun’s surface a day earlier, producing the strongest geomagnetic storm since 2005.

Chapman emphasizes on his website that this is “real-time, as-it-happened footage,” and “not the usual time-lapse.” That becomes clear during the clip, since the stars don’t move in the background and people walk by in the foreground at normal speed.

Time-lapse photography is popular for aurora videos because the lights tend to move slowly, at a pace that would test the attention spans of many Internet viewers. But while it’s often stunning, time-lapse footage can also create a sense of detachment from reality, since it depicts nature as the n-ked eye doesn’t see it. By filming relatively fast northern lights in real time, Chapman helps convey their ethereal vibe without exaggerating it. And since that added realism may spur questions about what exactly we’re seeing, Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy offers this explanation:

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