NASA astronaut snaps Awe Inspiring aurora photo from the ISS

NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this breathtaking photo of the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis from the International Space Station (ISS). The NASA astronaut captured the colorful image during one of the space station’s 15 orbits of the planet. Every day the International Space Station (ISS) circles the Earth about 15 times. During these orbits, which last 90 minutes each, the ISS passes through the dayside and nightside of Earth. The frequent flybys give NASA’s astronauts an unprecedented opportunity to photograph the planet’s mesmerizing phenomena.

Aurora effects, or polar lights, are colorful streams of excited gas billowing in the upper parts of the atmosphere. Here, the NASA astronauts caught a glimpse of bright green lights lighting up the night near the Earth’s southern pole. When charged particles carried on solar winds wash over our planet, they interact with the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. These interactions excite the gas at high altitudes to the point where they start to glow in various hues of green, blue, yellow, red, and violet.

In the Northern Hemisphere, near the North Pole, the lights are known as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. In the Southern Hemisphere, near the South Pole, the so-called Southern Lights are dubbed the Aurora Australis. But the aurorae are not the only mesmerizing sights ISS astronauts get to see every day. On June 7, Ms. Koch tweeted a beautiful photo of the winding rivers of Madagascar from 250 miles up in space. The NASA astronaut is currently part of the Expedition 59 and 60 ISS crew, which launched to the orbital laboratory in March this year.

Ms. Koch is a 2001 graduate of NASA’s Academy program at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). She later worked as an electrical engineer in the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics between 2002 and 2004. In 2013, she was selected as one of the eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class.

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