Friday, December 30, 2016

Another lap completed

Another year is coming to an end and planet Earth has completed another lap around the Sun. This year has been exciting in many ways with the release of my new book Light-year - a year of light and the release of 5 stamps with my Northern light photos.

As for astronomical events we got to see a Mercury transit in May and later in the summer I went further up north above the arctic circle to capture the midnight summer solstice Sun. The Northern lights season kicked off quite early this year and I did manage to find the the Northern light factory. Also we had an exceptional super moon in November and for me the year ended with a real highlight, seeing a lunar fog bow, such a beauty!

I wish you all a happy new year and lots of clear skies in 2017!

A small planet flying through space and time.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Rare lunar fog bow with Northern lights

Throughout the years I've seen lots of different phenomena in the sky but one that have been on my bucket list for quite some time is the very rare lunar fog bow. I've seen photos of it but I've never seen it in real life, until now. This Saturday turned out to be my lucky night. I hadn't planed to go out at all but after having a look to the north a saw some faint Northern Lights so I decided to head out to see if the activity would increase.

After an hour or so I decided to drive to another location and after parking the car I started walking on the frozen shoreline of lake Storsjön. After walking a couple of hundred of meters I looked up and could clearly see this lunar fog bow. I immediately stopped and pulled out my camera from my backpack to start taking some photos of it. While shooting I felt so excited and happy to finally see this beautiful white fog bow, it was more beautiful than I ever excepted. And as a bonus there were some Northern Lights visible at the same time.

After a while and while the camera was exposing I wanted to text a very good friend of mine that I was seeing my first ever lunar fog bow. While typing I could see my fingers shiver of excitement and I once again realized how much these beautiful phenomena of nature actually means to me.

A fog bog is pretty much the same as a rainbow. It's located in the opposite direction of the Moon and it's height correlates to the height of the Moon in the same way a rainbows height correlates to the height of the Sun. Fog bows are almost white with faint reds on the outside and blues inside. The colors are so washed out because the bow in each color is very broad and the colors overlap.

My first ever lunar fog bow

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Upcoming Geminid meteor shower

During one of my recent exposures of the Northern lights I caught this big meteor burning up in the atmosphere. Seeing these really bright meteors is always a joy and hopefully we'll see more of them now when we're closing in on the Geminid meteor shower that peaks on December 14th.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Looking back in time

When observing the night sky we're looking back in time. The light from the stars we see have traveled for many years before it reaches us here on Earth. In this photo of the Milky Way and an old church ruin, we can take a look in the past.

The big red nebula near the center is the North American Nebula. The light from this nebula had been traveling for about 1500 years before it reach my camera this night. As a comparison, the old ruin in the foreground is from a church that was build 900 years ago. When they started building that church in 1200 AD, the nebula light I caught on this night had done 60% of it's distance to Earth.

At the top of the image you can see the Andromeda galaxy as a small disc shaped object under the tree. The light from Andromeda has traveled for 2,5 billion years before it reach my camera. When that light started its journey, the first members of the genus Homo appeared on Earth.

It's quite mind blowing to think of this while standing under a starry night sky.

Nikon D810A + Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm f/2.8
Exposure 20 sec. at ISO 3200

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Half moon rises

Earlier this week I went out to photograph the Northern Lights and got some great images. On my way home I had planed to take photos of the 50% lit moon rising above the horizon. I had scouted this location where I would get the big residential house Fagerskrapan and the Vallsundsbron bridge in the foreground. I was very pleased to see that the water in lake Storsjön was still so the city lights reflected very nicely in the water.

Shooting moonrises like this is always a thrill and I enjoy the planning and scouting as much as the photo shoot itselves.

Two shot panorama with a Nikon D800E and Nikon AF-S 600 mm f/4

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cygnus Loop

This is the Cygnus Loop, an emission nebula measuring nearly 3° across (Six times the size of a full moon in the sky). This nebula is a large remnant after a supernova, a massive stellar explosion that occurred between 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. The distance from Earth is estimated to 1500 light years.

Photo was taken using a Nikon D810A with a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 Ai-s lens at f/4.0. Total exposure time is 1 hour (60 x 1 min) at ISO 1600. AstroTrac used for unguided tracking.

The Cygnus Loop

Behind the scenes with location of Cygnus Loop marked.
The green down to the right is some Northern light.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon through the clouds

Last night I got back home from the big photo fair Fotomässan in Stockholm where I held a couple of lectures on my astrophotography in the Nikon booth.

During more or less the entire train ride home I could see the 98% lit moon outside the window. It lit up the winter landscape in a very beautiful way. Upon arrival the clouds was blocking the moon but small gaps passed by from time to time so I decided to wait out one and take a shot of the moon. This photo was taken about 12 hours before the moon reaches lunar perigee, the point when the moon is closest to Earth.

Sadly the weather for tonight looks really bad so I will most likely miss out this supermoon. But as I said in earlier posts, every full moon rise is worth watching so I'll have another go on December 14.

Nikon D800E, Nikon AF-S 300 mm f/2.8
Exposure 1 sec with ISO 100 at 300 mm f/4.0

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Time for a Supermoon

Don't miss tomorrows Supermoon. It will be the biggest moon since 1948 and it won't be as big until 2034. With your naked eye you won't experience the moon as bigger but since it will be 14% larger than normal, a photo of this moon and a regular full moon will show the difference in size. I recommend you to watch the moon as it rises above the horizon, Supermoon or not, watching a full moon rise is always a beautiful experience.

When it comes to taking photo of this Supermoon I also recommend doing it just as the moon rises above the horizon to get a more exciting photo. Use a long focal length to get really close to the moon. And don't forget to take a photo of a normal full moon with the same focal length so you can compare it to this larger moon. Good luck and clear skies!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Milky Way and small church

This is a three shot panorama of the Milky Way and a small church. Each shot is a 20 second exposure at ISO 1600, 14 mm f/2.8 with a Nikon D810A.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Full moon of October

Full moon of October rises behind the Arctura building in Östersund, Sweden. On top of this building there's an restaurant, I hope they enjoyed the view of the moon.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Colorful Northern Lights

Last night I had a visit from a Swedish photography magazine (Fotosidan Magasin) doing an article about me and my work. We were lucky to get a clear and dark sky and we even managed to get some colorful Northern Lights. At first we could hardly see the aurora but for a short while it turned into some faint pillars dancing across the sky. To the naked eye we could barley make out any colors, the human eye isn't that good at seeing colors in the dark. Fortunately our cameras doesn't have the same problem, they are very good at seeing colors in low light since they can capture light for a longer period of time.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The art of managing frustration

I've been doing night and astrophotography for more than 20 years now and one thing I've learned over the years is managing frustration over bad weather. Missing out on rare events is still difficult to accept but the more common ones is easier to handle.

As for rare events, I almost missed the latest Venus transit in June 2012 due to cloudy weather. That would have been a bummer since the next one isn't until 2117. Here's a photo I got just as the weather cleared up and Venus was clearly visible against the solar disc.

Venus transit in 2012

Another rare event I almost missed was the totalt solar eclipse in March 2015. I was on the Faroe Islands and that time of the year the weather is usually very cloudy so my expectations wasn't that high. But, as you can see by the video capture below, I was very lucky to get a 20 second glimpse of the eclipse when a small opening in the clouds passed the Sun.

Total solar eclipse on Faroe Islands

The more common and yearly events like Northern lights, meteor showers etc. is easier to miss out on. There will always be another Northern light and next year I'll get another go at the Perseid meteor shower.

Strong Northern Lights blocked by clouds

So managing frustration due to bad weather comes down to luck and patience. You can always increase your chances of seeing a rare event by traveling to another location with a better weather forecast. For more common events, patience is you bests friend.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

My new book Light-year - a year of light

Last week I sent my new book to print, a moment I've been looking forward to. The book is called "Light-year - a year of light" and will be released in late October 2016. You can now pre-order one or more signed copies by sending an email to Write your name, shipping address and number of copies in your email. Price is 295 SEK and 40 SEK in unit shipment. All the text in the book are in both Swedish and English.

From the content:
"Look at a light-year from the perspective of an astrophotographer. Take time during all four seasons of the year to discover what makes each one of them uniquely special. Come on a journey to the sun, the moon, the Milky Way, noctilucent clouds and the mightiest of Northern Lights. Why is autumn a favourite season, why is it a good thing when it’s minus 20 degrees outside, and why does spring bring a melancholy mood? In the book “Light-year – a year of light” photographer Göran Strand describes his passion for light, illustrated by a great selection of his well-loved photographs."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Milky Way photography close to a city

I often get asked if you need a really dark location to be able to see and shoot the Milky Way. My answer to that question is usually no, it all depends on the amount of light pollution in your area.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a location just 8 km from down town Östersund (A city with a population of 60,000 in the municipality). I could see the Milky Way with my naked eye as a faint band of stars stretching across the sky above our heads. In this photo down town Östersund is to the left just behind me and my friend. The bright light source by the horizon to the right is the setting Moon.

As for shooting the Milky Way you can see by this photo that some light pollution is OK as long as the Milky Way doesn't stretch through it. When editing the photos I was surprised on how low above the horizon the Milky Way was visible, despite being that close to the Moon.

The image below is a panorama made of 12 photos each shot with the same exposure settings, 20 sec. ISO 1600 using a Nikon D810A and a Nikon AF-S 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens at 14 mm f/2.8.

The Milky Way over the city of Östersund

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Milky Way

Now that the astronomical nights are back I finally get to see and photograph the Milky Way again. When the darkness returns during the autumn, it feels like coming home from a long vacation when I can see the stars again.

This photo of the Milky Way was taken a couple of nights ago and is a four shot panorama using my Nikon D810A camera with a Nikon AF-S 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens at 20mm. Exposure was 20 seconds at ISO 3200 for each shot.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Return of the Northern Lights

Yes! Tonight I got to see my first Northern Lights for this season. Finally the season begins after several months of waiting. In a couple of weeks we will have astronomical nights so then the display will be even better.

The landscape is lit up by a 96% waxing gibbous Moon.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Perseid, Aurora and NLC - Astronomy Picture Of the Day at NASA

Today I'm featured as Astronomy Picture Of the Day at NASA with my photo of a Perseid, Aurora and Noctilucent Clouds. It was taken during last year's Perseid meteor shower. That night was the first night of the season I saw the Northern Lights and it was also the last night I saw some Noctilucent clouds for that summer. This astrophotogrpaher hat trick will be hard for me to repeat but one can always hope for another chance for the upcoming Perseid shower that peaks tomorrow.

Perseid, Northern lights and Noctilucent clouds

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Noctilucent Clouds

Last night I got to see my first Noctilucent clouds up here in Jämtland for this season. These are clouds made of tiny ice crystals high up in the atmosphere that are lit up by the scattered sunlight late at night.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Midnight Sun

If you go above the artic circle during summer you can witness the midnight Sun. It's really amazing to be out in the middle of the night and still see the Sun above the horizon. You completely loose track of time at night since it feels and looks like it's late afternoon when it's actually past midnight. This is a mosaic picture I've made of 12 photos taken on June 21 in 2016 during the summer solstice in Gällivare, Sweden. The photos were taken between 23:30 and 01:20 local Swedish time. As you can see the Sun never goes down below the horizon.

Midnight Sun during summer solstice.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Don't forget the Earth shadow

I never get tired of seeing our closest star set below the horizon. Seeing how the landscape changes as the warm light gets fainter by the minute. Every sunset has its personality depending och location, weather and season. Here in the higher latitudes we have our bright summer nights and during winter the Sun sets in the afternoon and darkness falls quite fast.

Midwinter sunset with a bright solar halo.

Another beautiful thing about a sunset is what happens right after the Sun has set. If turn around, you can slowly see the Earth shadow rising from the horizon. A low horizon is preferred to get a better view of the phenomena. 

As twilight deepens a dark blue band slowly rises upwards from the horizon. This band is the shadow of the Earth projected on the atmosphere. Above the blue shadow band you can also se a pink band called the anti-twilight arch or "Belt of Venus". The pink color comes from scattered and deeply reddened sunlight mixed with the deep blues colors of the sky.

Moonrise in Earth shadow and Belt of Venus.

The same thing happens before a sunrise. Look in the opposite direction of the rising Sun and you will see the Earth shadow sinking towards the horizon as the Sun rises.

Earth shadow is also visible before sunrise.

So next time you're watching a sunset, stay out a bit longer and don't forget to look behind you to see the Earth shadow rise.

Don't forget to look behind you after sunset.
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Monday, July 4, 2016

Earth at Aphelion

Today Earth is at aphelion, that's the farthest point to the Sun. Since Earth's orbit around the Sun is in an elliptical path, there is one point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and one point when it is furthest away. The opposite to aphelion is perihelion, then Earth is nearest to the Sun, next time the Earth is in perihelion will be on the 4th och January in 2017.

Universe Today has an great article on today's event if you would like to read more

This is a shot of today's Sun as seen from aphelion.

Sun as seen from aphelion with scale sized Earth included.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Moonrise in the light of the midnight sun

A magical moonrise over Björkliden, Sweden, in the light of the midnight sun. It's quite amazing to be out in the middle of the night shooting without a tripod since it's so bright under the midnight sun. The U-shaped valley in the distance is called Lapporten.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Midsummer

Today is midsummer's eve here in Sweden, a time to celebrate that the summer has finally arrived. Here's a shot from Björkliden in northern Sweden. In the distance you can see the famous u-shaped valley called Lapporten.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Midnight Summer Solstice Sun

Last night the Sun went from spring to summer during the summer solstice. At the time I was above the article circle so I could see the Sun throughout the entire night. The weather was really bad during the day but cleared up around 19:00 UTC. Seeing the midnight Sun is really special and I'm so happy that the weather cleared up during the solstice. I was also able to see the full Moon rise and it's quite awesome to be able to see both the Sun and the full Moon during the night.

Midnight Solstice Sun in Gällivare, Sweden

Full Moon rising in the light of the midnight Sun

Here's a time lapse movie showing the Sun move across the sky. As you can see the Sun never sets below the horizon, it gets blocked blocked by clouds at one point.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Strawberry Moon

On Monday it's time for another Strawberry full moon to rise, one of the more beautiful moon rises of the year. The full moon of June got its Strawberry name because the Algonquin tribes knew it as a signal to gather ripening fruit. This is a shot of the Strawberry moon rise back in 2014.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orion Constellation

One of my favorite constellations is Orion, here in the northern hemisphere is best visible during the winter. Here's a shot from march this year showing a panoramic view to the South West. It's a 2x2 shot panorama. It was taken in a small village called Rörvattnet in Jämtland, Sweden. This village is located in a very remote location with a beautiful dark sky which makes it perfect for astrophotography.

Orion Constellation 

Annotated version

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Historic solar halo

Here's a shot from last week showing a 22° solar halo over the old church in Oviken, Jämtland, Sweden. The old church was first built during the middle ages and was then rebuilt as it looks today in the 18th century.

Halo over the old church of Oviken, Jämtland, Sweden

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June starts off with a halo

Yesterday, on the 1st of June, this beautiful halo emerged for a couple of hours during early afternoon. I was out scouting for new photo locations when I saw that a faint solar halo started to form. I drove to this church to get a nice foreground together with the halo. This is the new church of Oviken, Jamtland, Sweden. It was built in 1903 - 1905.

Solar halo over the new church of Oviken.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making the invisible visible

Today I did an experiment with some infra red photography. I wanted to capture a scene in IR-light and then colorize it with normal colors. First I took a normal photo of the scene, then an IR photo of the same scene and then by using the colors from the first shot I colorized the IR photo.

The end result looks quite interesting and it's exciting to think that it contain details that we actually can't see :-)

IR photo colorized

IR photo

Normal photo

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Solar and lunar halo

Earlier in March this year I took a shot of me standing in a winter landscape under a lunar halo. Last week I returned to the same spot and redid the shot, but this time during a solar halo. I didn't get the exact same angle but it was pretty close.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Viking sunset

Last night I got the opportunity to shoot two vikings during the sunset. These guys are experienced actors and it was a blast working with them throughout the night. The light was just amazing and I don't think I ever experienced a session that has resulted in so many good images, almost every shot is epic in some way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Solar halo

Today I've been hanging out with a beautiful reflected solar halo, the first halo for this summer season. It varied in strength throughout the day but I could never see any trace of the 46° halo or arcs. These 22° halos are quite common but for them to reflect in water they need to bee quite strong as it was today. Read more about halos at Atmospheric Optics.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mercury Transit

Yesterday I spent the entire day outside following the Mercury transit. The weather was great more or less the entire time with a few clouds moving by from time to time. I have seen both Venus transits in 2004 and 2012 (Read about my Venus transit in 2012 here), but this was my first ever Mercury transit. All in all I'm very happy with the results and I'm really glad I got to follow Mercury during the entire transit.

Here's a photo showing my location and the gear I was using.

As you can see, I used both my 80mm H-alpha solar telescope and my 8" SCT telescope on my SkyWatcher AZ EQ5GT mount. Here some shots I took during the transit.

Solar telescope 11:15:30 UTC

8" telescope 12:27:14 UTC

Solar telescope 12:43:12 UTC

Solar telescope 16:37:23 UTC

8" telescope 18:37:16 UTC