During the last couple days in February, a series of impressive solar storms sent the aurora borealis as far as California and Western Australia. The lights were particularly brilliant in northern places like Scotland and Iceland where the long winter nights provide ample darkness as a backdrop to the waving illuminations. Chile-based photographer Cari Letelier took advantage of Iceland’s position just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle to capture vibrant images of the auroras as they traversed the skies above waterfalls, icy expanses, and the Arctic Henge.
The northern lights result from enormous solar events in which the sun emits energized particles that slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour. Earth’s protective magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles in a process that produces spectacular light shows. Letelier had been to Iceland once in 2019, but didn’t have much luck finding the phenomena, sharing that when she reached the Arctic Henge, “it was so cloudy and snowing, I told myself, ‘I have to come back and catch this place with the aurora.’”
This time, when she and a fellow photographer learned that there would be a solar flare that was likely to produce a spectacle, they made the seven-hour journey from the southern part of the island in search of sightings and captured some incredible images. “I had to make a decision whether to take the photo or to enjoy the show making mental captures,” she says. “As I wanted to make both, I set my camera to shoot photos for a timelapse while I was watching at the sky.”
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