Breathtaking Image Shows Giant, Whale-shaped Aurora in Night Sky

A breathtaking picture of a giant, whale-shaped aurora in the night sky has been captured by a photographer in central Sweden.

Freelance astrophotographer Göran Strand took the image in Östersund while staying up all night for a glimpse of the aurora.

The phenomenon that caused the aurora is what is known as a corona. This happens when somebody is standing beneath the Northern Lights, in the same direction as the Earth's magnetic field. The rays appear to radiate from one single point in the sky, and emerge outwards.

Strand told Newsweek that this particular corona, which merged into the shape of a whale, is "quite rare."

"I don't think I've ever seen such a fast moving corona. It was really surreal to watch," he said.

Northern lights
Strand captured the whale-shaped formation in central Sweden. Göran Strand

Strand said he follows different websites to keep him updated on conditions that are good for seeing the lights. He said on this night, "all the conditions were perfect," with almost no wind and temperatures were just a few degrees below zero.

In a blog post, Strand said he went out at about 7.30pm local time with his family to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. After a while, his family went home, leaving Strand alone. He decided to stay out to see if the weather would bring "something more spectacular." He was not disappointed.

While waiting for the solar wind to strike again, Strand found a spot on a city ski slope. He said it was an opportunity to get a good view of the lights over the city.

"I got the time to enjoy the view of a very colorful and beautiful lunar corona and for a short period of time I could also see a faint lunar halo so there were a lot of things going on this night," he wrote. "In the end this turned out to be a night to remember with one of the most amazing Northern Lights I've seen. It's night like these that keeps us astrophotographers going out at night waiting and waiting for that perfect moment."

Strand posted a video of the experience to his YouTube channel, with the footage showing the aurora in real time. The lights start out faint and gradually become more vibrant as the night goes on.

A real time video of the experience shows the formation gradually take shape

The best time of year to see the Northern Lights ranges from late September to early March, as this is when nights are longer.

Aurora have been known to take peculiar shapes in the past, and these shapes can tell scientists what is going on in space by showing how Earth's atmosphere is interacting with the magnetosphere, the region surrounding the earth.