Rare Photo Captures Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora Borealis Together

aurora and noctilucent

Astrophotographer Goran Strand captured not one, but two rare celestial phenomenons in the same image yesterday.

Strand enjoyed photographing noctilucent cloud formations that are found in the atmosphere layer known as the “mesosphere”. They have a higher density than other clouds.

But as he was out shooting the lesser-seen clouds close to the city of Ostersund in Sweden. The northern lights, which he had not seen this season, burst into view allowing Strand to photograph the aurora borealis with the noctilucent clouds still clearly visible.

noctilucent clouds
Close-up shot of the noctilucent clouds with regular clouds | Goran Strand

nrthern lights

The resulting spectacular photo is a panoramic image made from seven photos stiched together. It was taken around 01:30 local time.

“It all started around 23:30 local time,” Strand writes on his website.

“I saw the first glimpses of a faint northern light over a colorful sunset sky.

“It came and went a few times but never was that intense so I decided to change location to get another foreground since I’ve done this framing several times.”

Strand uses data from aurora satellites to monitor the sky’s activity. The apps told him the aurora was increasing.

All of a sudden, the sky burst above me with a strong Northern Light corona. It lasted just a couple of minutes before it faded away,” he explains.

“And after almost three hours outside waiting for that perfect moment, it all the pieces came together. The strength of the northern light increased while Noctilucent cloud were still clearly visible.”

Strand says that he has not seen the aurora borealis so early in the year: “August 8 is actually a new personal record for me,” he writes.

Practical Tips For Shooting the Northern Lights

Stand used a Nikon Z9 to capture the images and says that northern light forecast apps are essential in his workflow.

“Follow the northern night forecast through phone apps (search for aurora forecast) or websites like spaceweatherlive.com, noaa.gov, etc.”

The Swedish photographer also encourages fellow lens creatives to “scout and decide your location during daylight.”

“Look for interesting and exciting things to work within your foreground,” he says.

“As for exposure, start with something like five to ten seconds at ISO 1600, it all depends on your surroundings and the intensity of the northern lights, it can vary a lot throughout the night.”

Strand encourages photographers to bring warm clothes and hot drinks as it is impossible to say how long shooters could find themselves waiting for the show to start.

Image credits: All photos by Goran Strand.