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Astronauts Share Breathtaking Pictures Of Earth’s Auroras

by : Emily Brown on : 28 Jan 2021 08:28
Astronauts Share Breathtaking Pictures Of Earth's Auroras@Space_Station/Twitter/NASA Johnson/Flickr

Astronauts on the International Space Station have shared an out-of-this-world look at the auroras that light up the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Auroras can be seen from Earth near the North or South Pole, though the view is evidently even more spectacular when framed by Earth and the universe beyond.

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Images shared on the official ISS Twitter account show the glowing green lights hovering over countries and oceans, noting that astronauts caught the impressive view as the station orbited as high as 51.6° above the equator.

The ISS noted that the unique viewpoint offered an ‘awe-inspiring’ look at ‘the Earth’s aurora in between the city lights and the twinkling stars.’

The lights, named aurora borealis in the North Pole and aurora australis in the South Pole, are caused by cosmic rays interact with gasses in the upper atmosphere.

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Auroras taken from space@Space_Station/Twitter/NASA Johnson/Flickr

NASA explains:

When a solar storm comes toward us, some of the energy and small particles can travel down the magnetic field lines at the north and south poles into Earth’s atmosphere.

There, the particles interact with gases in our atmosphere resulting in beautiful displays of light in the sky. Oxygen gives off green and red light. Nitrogen glows blue and purple.

Auroras taken from space@Space_Station/Twitter/NASA Johnson/Flickr
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One of the images, taken on January 12, shows ‘a starry night sky and an aurora’ above Russia, in between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, as the International Space Station orbited 264 miles overhead.

Astronauts spotted the lights again as the ISS orbited over Kazakhstan the following day, while other images were taken from above Romania, with an aurora visible over the Earth’s horizon as the city lights sparkled in Sweden and Finland.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Science, Astronauts, International Space Station, NASA, Now

Credits

NASA Johnson/Flickr and 2 others
  1. NASA Johnson/Flickr

    @nasa2explore

  2. International Space Station/Twitter

    @Space_Station

  3. NASA

    What Is an Aurora?