We'll Never Be Tired of Auroras From Space

Take this moment to be furiously jealous that the excellent view the astronauts on the International Space Station have of Earth can somehow get even more gorgeous with the addition of auroras.

Illustration for article titled We'll Never Be Tired of Auroras From Space

At least the astronauts are well-aware that they have the best view in the solar system. Of course Reid Wiseman was the photographer of this envy-inducing view, captioning it, "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this."


Coronal mass ejection on August 15, 2014. The bright planet moving left is Mercury. Image credit: ESA&NASA/SOHO

The aurora is the result of a coronal mass ejection on August 15th. The cloud of solar particles smashed into the Earth's magnetic field at 1:67 am EDT on August 19th, setting off a geomagnetic storm.


Modelled aurora visibility (blue-green swath) at 7:30 pm EDT on August 19th as the space station flew over (red line). Image Credit: NASA/CCMC

For the next 24 hours, the magnetic field oscillated between compression and release like a coiled spring, initiating electric currents and sending charged particles dancing in chaos. This in turn triggered reactions in the upper atmosphere, prompting oxygen and nitrogen molecules to release photons of light in beautiful displays.


Between this and the brilliant fireball over western Canada on August 18th, it's been a good week to stargaze!

Tip via NASA


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Aurora Borealis is on my list of things to see before I die.