Aurora chaser and astronomy photographer Vincent Ledvina was treated to the light show of a lifetime when he recorded surges of green auroras, the northern lights streaking the sky above Iceland right above him.
A grad student at the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute, Ledvina traveled over 3,000 miles for the chance to see the northern lights at their peak and wasn’t disappointed. On the night of January 13, he looked out of his cabin to see a stream of “absolutely bonkers” green ribbons gliding through the sky.
“This particular location was legendary and led to some of my favorite aurora compositions ever,” Ledvina explained on Twitter. His home in Fairbanks, Alaska, offers a view of the ethereal lights as well. Reykjavík, however, is among the top places in the world for aurora watching. And Ledvina’s cabin was just two hours from the well-known hotspot.
Timelapse of the aurora explosion from January 13 right outside our AirBnB near Seljalandsfoss, Iceland! You can really see how fast the aurora changed, it was amazing to see in person, the camera doesn’t do it justice!@TamithaSkov #aurora #northernlights pic.twitter.com/NYopz5ftjU— Vincent Ledvina (@Vincent_Ledvina) January 18, 2023
Ledvina was so excited to see the greenish hue in the sky from his bedroom window that he didn’t bother to get dressed. Throwing on a pair of boots with his pajamas to prevent frostbitten toes, he walked out onto his porch to catch the glorious sight in person, recording a terabyte’s worth of photos and videos of the spectacular northern lights.
“This was the perfect finale to our Iceland trip. My friends who had never seen the aurora were treated to a solid show. Now they understand why I’m obsessed,” Ledvina said.
Where Do the Northern Lights Come From?
Looking at the northern lights, it’s difficult to imagine they’re anything less than magic. Unbelievably, however, it’s a completely natural occurrence. Auroras, otherwise known as northern lights, are actually the result of activity from the Sun.
When the Sun releases energy, the resulting particles shower down on Earth’s upper atmosphere. They’re then redirected toward the poles by the Earth’s strong magnetic field.
The Sun goes through cycles of activity and is currently reaching its peak. As such, the breathtaking ribbons of color have been even more prominent. The colors we see in the sky occur when solar particles energize gas molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere.
In the days before the Icelandic storm, the Sun fired off powerful X-flares, causing solar wind all throughout the solar system. Interestingly, this means that Earth isn’t the only planet to experience the northern lights. Other planets and moons have auroras as well.
The dancing streams of light are typically harmless. Every now and then, however, a powerful flare can wreak temporary havoc on radios and satellites.
On even rarer occasions (every few hundred years or so), the solar blasts are so strong that they’re actually destructive. In 1859, for instance, a monstrous solar storm known as the Carrington Event caused serious damage to the telegraph system.