Photographer Captures Northern Lights Taking the Shape of a Phoenix for 60 Seconds

A symbol of immortality, a the legendary firebird appears to “rise from the ashes” above the North Pole

If you’re feeling hopeless in these troubled times, you might take courage from a recent miraculous display of the Northern Lights.

Icelandic photographer Hallgrimur Helgason says he always gets a rush out of photographing the Aurora Borealis, but a shot he captured in winter of 2016 is still his favorite of all time. He calls it “Phoenix Rising.”

“Sometimes the Lights put on a spectacular show, but unfortunately images like that don’t last long,” he tells the Press and Journal.

“I was shooting another direction when this phenomenon appeared at the corner of my eye. Of course I quickly re-positioned the camera and made three shots, vertorama, to get it all.” He said the image lasted about 60 seconds before it started to dissipate.

The dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis (North Pole) and Aurora Australis (South Pole) are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun and Earth’s atmosphere.

Helgason says he always takes his Northern Lights photography far away from city light pollution and never uses a flash.

“It’s really a thrill shooting the aurora, especially when they are so playful like they were that night. I have to admit that I always get an adrenaline kick when the lights burst out like that – that particular shot was the top one of the night.”


In Greek mythology, the phoenix, or firebird, represented immortality and rebirth, rising again and again from the ashes of its predecessors.

There are also many myths surrounding the Northern Lights.

In Norse mythology, they are believed to have been created by the reflection of the shields and armor of the Valkyrie.

It was also called the “Bifrost Bridge,” a glowing and throbbing arch that led those who had fallen in battle to Valhalla, the final resting place of the warriors.

The Sami indigenous people believe the Lights are their ancestors, coming to visit them.

Finns believed that a mystical fox created the Lights when its fluffy tail sprayed snow and threw sparks in the sky.

The Salteaus Indians of eastern Canada and the Kwakiutl and Tlingit of Southeastern Alaska believe they are dancing human spirits, while Inuits thought of them as dancing animal spirits.