The shots in question were captured on a Pitkäjärvi frozen lake in Finland. The above image doesn’t do the 360-degree experience justice, so here’s an embed for your viewing pleasure:
The northern lights is a natural phenomenon seen only in northern latitudes. Galileo named the aurora borealis for the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, in 1619.
Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has almost identical features, and the two change simultaneously in their respective auroral zones. Auroras are usually seen as a greenish glow, or sometimes a faint red, and occur thanks to charged particles interacting with one another in Earth’s atmosphere.
Of course, this is nothing compared to seeing either of the effects in person — or so I’m told, since I haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so. With this little addition today, however, I’m both less and more excited to do so.
And that’s the general problem with adding such cool places to the likes of Google Maps or Bing Maps: This is much better than looking at a photo, so you may no longer feel the need to spend the required time and money. On the other hand, it may increase your desire to go experience it yourself.
The real question will be how virtual reality will impact such scenarios. What if you can trick your body, via all its senses, into believing that you’re really surrounded by the northern or southern lights? Such experiences will be available in our lifetime, and Google will likely play a role.