How to take photos of the Northern Lights on Android


The largest geomagnetic storm in 20 years is hitting Earth this weekend, and is causing the Northern Lights to be seen across vast parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Here's how to take a photo of the Northern Lights using a Google Pixel smartphone or other Android device.

The Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis – are usually only visible in the far northern parts of the world. They are the result of solar storms passing near Earth and the interaction of charged particles with gases in the atmosphere. It's a dramatic sight in the sky, and this weekend it will be visible in parts of the world where it is rarely seen. It covers a large part of the United States.

Starting on May 10th and still occurring on May 11th – although not as strong – you can look up and see the Aurora Borealis. This will vary depending on where you live, levels of light pollution, and many other factors. To the naked eye, you may see some color or a slight tint in the sky, but a camera can actually see more under the right conditions.

By using a long-exposure mode on your camera, such as the Google Pixel's astrophotography, you can capture the Northern Lights in a way that looks even better than the naked eye. Here's how to do it.

To get started, you'll need two things. A dark environment with minimal light pollution and a tripod.

Mount your phone on a tripod And open the camera app. Then, at one pixel, Switch to “night vision” mode With bottom bar. If the Northern Lights are already clearly visible to your eyes, you will probably only be able to capture it using night sight. But astrophotography can capture much more detail, and time-lapse too.

To trigger astrophotography On your Pixel, set the phone on a tripod and make sure it's on a stable surface. After remaining still for a few seconds, you will see star sign (see image above) appears on the shutter button. Tap that button gently and then your phone will start the process which may take up to 4 minutes.

Night Sight 2
Night Sight Mode on Google Pixel

Once the shot is finished, your phone will process the image and export a still photo as well as a time-lapse of the shot, which is especially fun for capturing the Northern Lights.

Here are some photos taken from North Carolina during the first night of the Aurora Borealis on May 10.

While many other Android phones don't have dedicated modes for astrophotography, you can still take a good shot with the standard night mode. Most phones, including Samsung Galaxy devices, will automatically switch to night mode when it's dark enough.

A good rule of thumb would be that if you can see the Northern Lights with the naked eye, your phone's standard night mode can probably capture an image of it as well. If you can only barely see the aurora, you'll need to dive into manual shooting mode and look for longer exposure options.

On modern Samsung Galaxy devices, you'll be able to access long-exposures in two ways. Under the dedicated “Night” mode, you can switch from auto exposure to “Max.” Alternatively, you can go into “Pro” mode and increase the “Speed” to 5 or 6 seconds. Like the Pixel, you'll need a tripod for this.

If you've tried or used this guide to take Northern Lights photos with your Android phone, share them in the comments below!

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