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Watch the northern lights dance in these surprising time-lapse videos

Brad Goldpaint

The International Space Station creates a long-exposure streak in this photo of the auroral glow over Crater Lake, captured by Oregon photographer Brad Goldpaint. Click on the image to see the full-length video, or watch the embedded version below. For more of Goldpaint's work, check out the Goldpaint Photography website.



A surprisingly strong geomagnetic storm swept over our planet this weekend, resulting in a surprisingly strong set of videos showing the northern lights (and the southern lights, too).

A couple of the videos pack in some extra goodies. For example, Oregon photographer Brad Goldpaint's video of the aurora over Crater Lake features a long-exposure streak left behind by the International Space Station as it passed overhead on Saturday morning.

"Like the aurora, the ISS was another great surprise during the night," Goldpaint, who offers a treasure trove of night-sky views on his website, told NBC News in an email. "Usually I pay close attention to events like these, but this night completely threw me off with strong aurora levels and the ISS flyover."


Goldpaint told SpaceWeather.com that he drove out to Crater Lake National Park on Friday night primarily to photograph the Milky Way, not thinking that there'd be any fireworks. "I've waited months for the roads to open and spring storms to pass, so I could spend a solitude night with the stars," he explained. But by around 11 p.m., he was picking up on the signs of a great auroral show in the making.

"With adrenaline pumping, I raced to the edge of the caldera, set up a time-lapse sequence, and watched northern lights dance until sunrise," he wrote. "The moon rose around 2 a.m. and blanketed the surrounding landscape with a faint glow, adding depth and texture to the shot."

Scientists aren't exactly sure what caused the upswing in geomagnetic activity. "Current speculation focuses on a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) — that is, a shock-like transition zone between high- and low-speed solar wind streams," SpaceWeather.com's Tony Phillips reported.

There's a chance that observers in higher latitudes will see enhanced auroras on Sunday night as well, due to the interaction between a high-speed solar wind stream and Earth's magnetic field. To keep up with the aurora forecast, check in with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center and its automated Ovation prediction page. If you're in the zone, the best time to see the aurora is after midnight. In the meantime, check out these aurora time-lapse videos on Vimeo. For the best viewing experience, turn the settings to full-screen HD:

Brad Goldpaint captures views of the northern lights over Crater Lake, capped off by the International Space Station's long-exposure streak. Watch "Without Warning" from Goldpaint Photography on Vimeo.

Loic Le Guilly documents the southern lights and the glow of the Milky Way in the skies over Tasmania. "I had to use shopping bags to hide the light posts!" LeGuilly writes on his Facebook page. Watch "Aurora Australis, Signal Station, Hobart" from Loic Le Guilly on Vimeo.

Shawn Malone's time-lapse video captures the northern lights amid thunderstorms over Lake Superior. "Clouds cleared out for a second, for which I am thankful," Malone writes. Watch "A Mother of a Light Show" from LakeSuperiorPhoto on Vimeo.

Watch "Aurora 1.6.2013," a time-lapse view of the Tasmanian southern lights from James Stone on Vimeo.

The northern lights shimmer over Lumby in British Columbia. Watch "Mid-Latitude Auroras on May 31, 2013" from Yuichi Takasaka on Vimeo. "The lights behind clouds were amazing!" Takasaka writes.

Get a stunning look at "Northern Lights over Lake Minnewanka" in Alberta's Banff National Park from Dani Lefrancois on Vimeo. "More aurora shots to be posted every day this week!" she promises on Facebook.

More auroral glories:


For still more great time-lapse videos of the May 31-June 1 auroral outburst, check out "Aurora Over Mount Si" from Jim Reitz, and Michael Rector's "Bright Aurora in the Adirondacks."

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.