Is NASA vying to have the best Instagram page in the galaxy? With the latest images from Jupiter’s James Webb Space Telescope and last month’s stunning images of the Carina and Southern Ring Nebulae, it certainly appears that way.
And now, NASA is sharing a stunning image of the southern lights, or aurora australis, captured from the International Space Station.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the southern lights, which are similar to the aurora borealis, can be seen best from Tasmania, New Zealand, and Antarctica. According to the magazine, its “incredible atmospheric lightshow” is “just as captivating” as the aurora borealis.
A greenish glow appears above the Earth’s curve in the image, which NASA shared on Instagram and its website on Tuesday. As the light rises above the horizon, the colour changes to red. A section of the International Space Station can be seen on the right.
“The vibrant displays of light around Earth’s North and South Poles are caused by the interaction of solar particles ejected by the Sun and our planet’s protective magnetic field,” NASA explained in an Instagram post of the image.
During large solar storms, “the Sun spews large bubbles of electrified gas that collide with our magnetic field at its North and South Poles and enter our atmosphere… these energized solar particles collide with atmospheric gases, resulting in beautiful displays of light,” the post continues.
When the particles collide with the oxygen in the air, “As seen in this image, they emit rich red and green hues. When these same particles collide with nitrogen in our atmosphere, they produce blue and purple glows in the sky “NASA stated.
Bob Hines, an ISS pilot, took the photo and several others that he posted on Twitter last week, noting the “Absolutely SPECTACULAR aurora today!!”
Hines responded to some questions about the images on Twitter, including one that asked, “Are you tweeting from space?”
“Yes,” Hines replied.
On Wednesday, the image received nearly 1 million likes on Instagram, including one from the rock band Garbage. NASA encouraged its followers to “Let your light shine” alongside the images.