Space Station View of an Aurora

Aurora Space Station

Photo courtesy of NASA/Scott Kelly

Space Station View of an Aurora
| published August 18 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Auroras are spectacular images, but seen from space the light effect created by energy particles playing off the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere can be even more dramatic. Such is the case with this impressive photograph taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelley from the International Space Station this week.

Auroras can increase in intensity in the several days after heavy solar storm activity, or beginning approximately three days after what is known as a coronal mass ejection—a massive eruption of solar energy which sends particles along the leading edge of the solar wind hurtling toward our planet. As the particles arrive in waves to Earth, it triggers reactions in the upper atmosphere as molecules of oxygen and nitrogen release photon of light.

Kelly sent this photo back to Earth via social media, adding “aurora trailing a colorful veil over Earth this morning. Good morning from @space_station!”

Kelly and his Russian colleague, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are several months into their planned one year aboard the International Space Station. Kelly and Kornienko are testing the limits of human ability and endurance in preparation for the long-duration voyages necessary for manned travel to Mars, the asteroid belt, and beyond in the coming decades as the new deep space project Orion nears completion.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Space Station: A Close Call With Space Junk; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; July 17, 2015.

Earth’s Biggest Risk: Solar Storms; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; July 30, 2015.