Why do the Northern Lights never look as good as in the photographs?

Photograph of the Northern Lights
(Image credit: Future)

Last week, thousands of people in the US and UK were lucky enough to see the ethereal Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, delighting sky-watchers across the globe. But with the widespread observation of the phenomenon came the inevitable question: why didn't it look as good in reality as it does in photos?

The Lights were visible in the night sky after one of the strongest geomagnetic storms for years hit planet Earth, with the highest rating of G5. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a rare solar storm warning, which last happened in October 2003. 

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Leonie Helm
Staff Writer

After graduating from Cardiff University with an Master's Degree in Journalism, Media and Communications Leonie developed a love of photography after taking a year out to travel around the world. 

While visiting countries such as Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Ukraine with her trusty Nikon, Leonie learned how to capture the beauty of these inspiring places, and her photography has accompanied her various freelance travel features. 

As well as travel photography Leonie also has a passion for wildlife photography both in the UK and abroad.