Lots of people dream of seeing an aurora borealis, but few of us live near the Earth's poles -- where the celestial spectacle is most intense. But now, thanks to Swedish photographer Göran Strand, you can experience an aurora in a way Mother Nature could never show you.
Auroras occur when energetic particles ejected from the sun hit Earth's magnetosphere, the region around the planet where its magnetic field is present. The particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen molecules, triggering the release of photons that can be seen from the ground.
Strand recently compiled four hours of time-lapse photos -- that's 30 gigabytes of data -- taken near the small town of Östersund, in northern Sweden, during the coronal mass ejection that struck Earth on March 17. The fruit of his labor is a two-minute, interactive, 360-degree panorama.
Strand used a fish-eye lens to capture nearly 2,500 photos of the aurora in its entirety, according to PetaPixel. Then he used software to virtually project the images onto the interior of a dome, which the viewer can twist and turn and zoom in or out. The project also lets the viewer switch perspective -- even allowing the aurora to be viewed from above.
Strand explains in a blog post that it took "several hours of post processing and programming" before he finally captured the awe-inspiring auroras from that night.
"My goal with my photography is to open people's eyes to the beauty of the night and auroras are one of the most impressive things you can see," he told The Huffington Post in an email. "Unfortunately most people never get a chance to see an aurora in reality so I wanted to show people how it would look like while actually standing there."
Click on the interactive media, above, to play with Strand's creation. Watch a normal time-lapse video of his fish-eye photos, below: