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2023’s Best Pics of the Northern Lights

December 6, 2023

The aurora borealis is one of those magnificent sights of which it’s often said that photography doesn’t do it justice. The same goes for the Grand Canyon and your face in your passport pic. 

Nevertheless, the 25 images selected for the 2023 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year awards from travel photography site Capture the Atlas certainly give IRL observation a run for its money. 

Curated by Capture the Atlas editor Dan Zafra, the annual photo collection, now in its sixth edition, showcases shimmering shots of the northern lights above forests, mountains, lakes, and villages in Alaska, Iceland, Scandinavia, and beyond—including some unexpected, decidedly nonpolar places such as California’s Death Valley National Park and Wales in the United Kingdom (where photographer Kat Lawman took the image above). 

If this year’s crop of winners, captured from September to April in the Northern Hemisphere and from March to September in the Southern Hemisphere, inspire you to seek out the northern lights in person, 2024 should be an excellent year for spotting swirling colors in the night sky. 

From January to October 2024, activity on the sun—solar flares, solar winds, and such—is expected to reach the peak, or solar maximum, of its 11-year cycle, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and that could result in more frequent displays of the northern lights. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take an awestruck look back at some of this year’s most dazzling images of the aurora borealis, along with some behind-the-lens intel from the photographers, courtesy of Capture the Atlas. 

[Related: These Northern Lights Cruises in Norway Guarantee You’ll See the Aurora Borealis]