International space station aurora

Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA

The Space Station View of an Aurora
| published June 25, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

An aurora seen from the ground is dramatic and colorful, but one seen from the International Space Station can be spectacular. NASA astronaut Scott Kelley took this photograph on June 23 as the ISS passed across the Earth as the light effect of the sun’s energy created a striking band of reds and greens along the horizon. Auroras are caused in part by the sun’s incoming particles and energy—cast outward from the sun by solar wind—as some of those same particles enter the upper atmosphere of the Earth.

The colors and intensity of Earth auroras can also be affected by what are called coronal mass ejections—giant eruptions and flares of energy on the surface of the sun. Recent solar eruptions have been substantial, and have triggered some negative effects on Earth (such as disrupted television and radio signals, and disruptions to wireless transmissions) but also the positive effect of particularly impressive auroras.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Battered Tethys; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; June 17, 2015.

Saturn’s Outward Calm; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; May 18, 2015.