Location: Northern lights above the Mt. Hekla volcano in Southern Iceland.
The aurora borealis, or “northern lights,” come from the Earth’s magnetic field being continuously hit by electrically charged particles from the Sun. They are transported toward the magnetic poles, where they collide with nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere. These molecules absorb the energy and then release it as visible light. This image is one of 41 photographs taken by Feodor Pitcairn on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition, “Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed.”