Aurora Borealis

northern_lights_iss_20131009Astronaut Mike Hopkins aboard the International Space Station made this picture of the northern lights on 9 October, 2013. The northern lights are caused by collisions between fast-moving electronsfrom space and the oxygen and nitrogen gas in our atmosphere. Those electrons originate in the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As they strike the atmosphere, the electrons transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules, exciting them. As each atom returns to its normal state, it releases a photon of light. BTW, Mike Hopkins says this picture doesn’t do the aurora justice.

Image Credit: NASA

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