Sit Back, Relax, and Watch the Aurora Borealis Light up Earth from the ISS

The Northern Lights are undoubtedly one of the most spectacular sights in the world, but if you really want to indulge in their earthly beauty, there are a few more good points than the International Space Station (ISS). NASA recently shared the time-deflected video below as part of the Image of the Day feature, and auroras never get old. The gorgeous footage shot on September 28, 2017, as the International Space Station made its way south of Alaska from the North Pacific Ocean south of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.

The skies above Canada illuminated with green lilac colored ribbons and it glows in other earthly light rays. The northern lights fade, as the ISS lands in North America, but you will be able to identify several U.S. cities, including Chicago, Nashville, and Atlanta, before reaching the pitch-black Atlantic. Will Stefanov, an ISS program scientist at the Johnson Space Center for Earth Observation, told the NASA Earth Observatory:

“And being able to see process is incredibly beautiful, how the aurora moves and moves like a living thing. In addition, for the time being, you know that you see much of what buyers see in crew orbit.” In the Northern Hemisphere, aurora borealis or “Northern Light” is the product of cosmic forces colliding with the Earth beyond the solar system. Electrically charged particles are scattered in the corona of the sun, from its upper atmosphere, and flow through the solar system in the form of solar wind.

Once the sun’s charged particles hit the earth’s magnetic field, they release energy and excited gases into our upper atmosphere. Excitation causes ionization of atmospheric molecules and the release of light photons. Oxygen produces green and yellow light, nitrogen produces red and blue light. They are clearly visible near the Earth’s poles, especially in the northern hemisphere, but aurora australis also found deep in the southern hemisphere, due to the geomagnetic field around the planet. 

The magnetic field will initially remove the charged particles, causing them to flow around the planet and hit near the polar region where the magnetic field is weakest. There is still much to learn about this incredible phenomenon. Last year, a team of civil scientists, aurora hunting photographers and astronomers described an unauthorized appearance before the northern lights in southwestern Finland.