Most people know about the northern lights – but photos by the International Space Station last week show that the “southern lights” are just as amazing.
As activity blazed on the sun’s surface last week, aurora erupted at both of Earth’s poles – but space station astronaut Andre Kuipers had a better vantage point than most earth-bound photographers.
Kuipers, a prolific photographer, captured the images from the Space Station using a Nikon D3S on March 10.
He says the light show erupted in the sky between Australia and Antarctica.
Photographers around the world captured views of auroras caused by the same storms from the ground – caused by a wave of solar activity that blasted Earth’s magnetosphere, although without causing serious disruption.
‘Auroras are a spectacular sign that our planet is electrically and magnetically connected to the Sun. These light shows are provoked by energy from the Sun and fueled by electrically charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere,’ says Nasa.
The aurora australis lights up the sky over Australia after a new sunspot group blasted Earth’s magnetosphere.
“Fast-moving electrons collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere, transferring their energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules and making them chemically ‘excited’.
As the gases return to their normal state, they emit small bursts of energy in the form of light.
‘The color of light reflects the type of molecules releasing it; oxygen molecules and atoms tend to glow green, white or red, while nitrogen tends to be blue or purple.’