By Olivia B. Waxman
October 12, 2015

Photographer Harald Albrigtsen has been getting glowing reviews about his new video for Norwegian public television (NRK) showing humpback whales swimming beneath the northern lights, off the coast of the island Kvaløya near the city Tromsø. One could joke that Albrigtsen’s clip is certainly more riveting than the TV station’s past programming featuring salmon swimming upstream or a 134-hour ferry ride.

Also known as aurora borealis, this natural phenomenon is created by “collisions between fast-moving electrons and the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s upper atmosphere,” according to NASA. “As they ‘calm down’ and return to their normal state, they emit photons, small bursts of energy in the form of light.” And regarding how the lights get their colors: “Oxygen emits either a greenish-yellow light (the most familiar color of the aurora) or a red light; nitrogen generally gives off a blue light. The blending of these colors can also produce purples, pinks, and white.”

Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com.

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