Astronauts on Expedition 64, currently aboard the International Space Station, recently released several impressive photos of aurora seen from space, more than 400 km above sea level.
They occur when solar storm particles interact with gases in our atmosphere. Collisions can cause breathtaking shows, where colored lights, red, green, blue, yellow or pink, seem to dance in the sky. The phenomenon also occurs on Mars.
Here on Earth, the best places to see the natural spectacle are near the Arctic Circle like Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland in the northern hemisphere, where they are called northern Lights. In the southern tip of Tasmania and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, they are known as the southern lights.
In the photo below, the International Space Station was in orbit 423 km above Romania. The lights in the image are from cities in Sweden and Finland, with dawn on the horizon. The dark area between the two nations is the Baltic Sea.
This other shows a starry sky over Russia, between Ukraine and Kazakhstan. O Note that dawn is not directly above the horizon, but hovers in the air at an altitude of 100 km, on the border between our atmosphere and space.
It was not the first time that astronauts recorded an aurora from the ISS: NASA maintains an album on Flickr with only photos of the phenomenon. According to the agency, the Northern Lights are “a spectacular sign that our planet is electrically connected to the Sun”.