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Stargaze at a Rare Aurora Borealis in Virtual Reality

Astrophotographer Göran Strand transforms a burst of solar wind into a 360-degree viewing experience.

In March of 2013, astrophotographer [Göran Strand](http:// experienced one of the happiest accidents a stargazer can have: while he was filming the aurora borealis in Östersund, Sweden, an unexpeced burst of solar wind hit Earth's magnetic field, warping and twisting the translucent green ribbons of light right before his eyes.

Luckily Strand had a fisheye lens on hand during the phenomenon, which meant that a year later, he could adapt the project into the immersive Aurora Borealis: A Virtual Reality Experience. "I know there are lots of people who never experienced an aurora live so I got this idea that I perhaps could adapt the movie to a virtual reality experience," Strand told The Creators Project. "Since an aurora of this size is so big it's hard to illustrate it to a viewer in a good way. A small part of the sky will not show the entire beauty and a round, all-sky movie can be a bit hard to comprehend."


The best way he found to communicate that beauty was through browser-enabled virtual reality. Strand adapted 2,461 photos consecutive photos to 360 degree view with panoramic image viewer KRPano, giving him the visual material he needed for an immersive experience. Coupled with a detailed explanation of solar wind and the soothing tunes of Chris ZabriskieAurora Borealis: A Virtual Reality Experience was born.

The Aurora Borealis, warped by solar wind, above Östersund, Sweden.

One of the most fascinating things about the project is how close it came to not happening. "I didn't plan to shoot the aurora that night," the photographer says. "I was actually out to capture comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)." With the advent of virtual reality, though, these completely unlikely situations can be reproduced and shared with everybody, not unlike Nonny de la Peña's non-fiction VR scenarios. "My hope is that this continues to evolve," Strand goes on. "Hopefully we'll see more of this available in VR applications like the Oculus Rift."

The astrophotographer is currently working with Spitz Inc. on a full-dome IMAX film called Solar Superstorms, which will be one of, "the most intensive efforts ever made to visualize the inner workings of the sun and how the Sun affects Earth," according to Strand. In the meantime, he says, he'll be in the field, pointing his camera towards the night sky.

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Astrophotographer Göran Strand stands by his tripod in Östersund, Sweden as he captures the Aurora Borealis.


Try out the 360 degree viewing experience here, or visit [Strand's website](http:// to find more of his stellar space photographs.


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