Aurora Borealis from a 747 cockpit

July 08, 2020

This stunning picture of Aurora Borealis was taken from a 747 cockpit by pilot Christiaan van Heijst over the North Pole.

Christiaan takes up the story;

“The Aurora Borealis: one of the most impressive natural phenomena in the world. It doesn’t occur all the time and I have to be lucky with a night flight across the Arctic on my schedule, but every now and then it all comes perfectly together.

“A hazy green veil among the stars, or a violent storm of bright flaming curtains in various colors and hues. So many variations and never the same.

“When looking at the dancing lights, especially the fiery displays, always wonder what the impressions were of the first human beings that saw them. Fear and apprehension, maybe. Reverence, most likely.

“No matter how many times I see them, I’m still taken away in awe. Something so imposing, so gracious and so enchanting. Even when flying at forty-thousand feet, the aurora is glowing far above me, even extending up to the orbit of the ISS.

“It makes me feel humble and in admiration of the natural wonder of the universe, no matter how well I understand the physics behind the lights.

“For those first human tribes that ventured into the big unknown during their migrations, this must have been a life-changing event. Without a logical explanation to comfort and reassure them, it must have been a profound spiritual experience without a doubt. A visit from their Gods to the realm of mortals.

“I’m sitting here all by myself for a few minutes, contemplating on the exotic glow in the sky around me. This far above the polar circle, two cargonauts in their flying machine are the only human presence for hundreds of miles around.

“My colleague returns to the flight deck with a fresh cup of coffee for himself and a tray with my heated meal. Dinner with a view of Shangri-la.”

Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.

You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst


  1. Stephen, The co-pilot is monitoring as the 747 is on autopilot as is always the case in cruise. Capt is out getting a drink and meal for the co-pilot who is taking the picture. All perfectly ok. Best Geoffrey Thomas - Editor