NASA ISS Astronaut Captures A Breathtakingly Surreal View Of Earth's Auroras
A NASA astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) snapped an exquisite image of auroras from space. Astronaut Josh Cassada shared the image on his Twitter profile, simply stating, "Absolutely unreal."
Anyone fortunate enough to have viewed an aurora will probably tell you that the majestic show of lights in the sky is simply breathtaking. Auroras are typically seen by those near the North or South Poles, with the northern lights being referred to as aurora borealis, and those in the south being called aurora australis. But very few in the history of humankind have had the unique opportunity to view one of these stunning light shows firsthand from space. Thankfully, astronauts such as Cassada capture images of the aurora and share them with us Earthbound humans.
Auroras are usually best viewed at night, and are caused by the Sun. As the Sun sends waves of heat and light toward Earth, it does not always send the same amount of energy. During a coronal mass ejection (type of solar storm), the Sun belches out an immense bubble of electrified gas that can travel through space at high rates of speed.
As the solar storm hurls through space toward Earth, some of the energy and small particles can down the magnetic field lines at the north and south poles into Earth's atmosphere, according to NASA. As this occurs, the particles interact with gases in our atmosphere causing the gorgeous displays of light in the sky, known as an aurora. Oxygen emits green and red light, as nitrogen glows blue and purple.
Earth is not the only planet in the Solar System to experience auroras. Auroras have been spotted on Jupiter and Saturn as well, as both planets have an atmosphere and magnetic field.
Cassada boarded ISS last October, along with three other crewmembers. The quartet, part of SpaceX's Crew-5 mission, only has about a week left to view Earth from the outer reaches of space, as SpaceX's Crew-6 mission is set to arrive later this week.