Thursday, September 28, 2023

Aurora Intersects Earth's Airglow | International Space Station

Aurora Intersects Earth's Airglow | International Space Station

An aurora intersects Earth's airglow beneath a starry sky in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 261 miles above western Kazakhstan near the Caspian Sea.

Airglow is not an optical illusion, but a genuine light source that results from chemical reactions in Earth’s upper atmosphere. It is far too faint to be visible during the daytime, and in most human-inhabited places it is drowned out by light pollution.

On Earth, auroras are mainly created by particles originally emitted by the Sun in the form of solar wind. When this stream of electrically charged particles gets close to our planet, it interacts with the magnetic field, which acts as a gigantic shield. While it protects Earth’s environment from solar wind particles, it can also trap a small fraction of them. Particles trapped within the magnetosphere—the region of space surrounding Earth in which charged particles are affected by its magnetic field—can be energized and then follow the magnetic field lines down to the magnetic poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper layers of the atmosphere, creating the flickering, colorful lights visible in the polar regions here on Earth.

Earth auroras have different names depending on which pole they occur at. Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights, is the name given to auroras around the north pole and Aurora Australis, or the southern lights, is the name given for auroras around the south pole.

NASA - About Aurora

The Colors of the Aurora (National Park Service)

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An international partnership of space agencies provides and operates the elements of the International Space Station (ISS). The principals are the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The ISS has been the most politically complex space exploration program ever undertaken.

Credit: NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC)

Image Date: Sept. 25, 2023

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