Is NASA campaigning to have the best Instagram page in the galaxy? That certainly seems to be the case with the latest James Webb Space Telescope images of Jupiter and last month’s stunning shots of the Carina Nebula and the South Ring Nebula.
And now the space agency is sharing a remarkable image of the aurora australis, or aurora australis, taken from the International Space Station.
The aurora australis, which resemble the aurora borealis, are best seen from Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica, according to the Smithsonian Magazine. Its “incredible atmospheric light show” is “just as captivating” as that of the Northern Lights, according to the magazine.
In the image, which NASA posted to Instagram and its own site on Tuesday, a greenish glow appears above the curve of the Earth. The color changes to red as the light rises above the horizon. To the right, a section of the International Space Station can be seen.
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“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,” the Instagram post of the image describes. Nasa.
During major solar storms, the post continues, “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, giving beautiful displays of light.”
When the particles collide with oxygen in the atmosphere, “they give off rich red and green hues as seen in this image. Conversely, if those same particles collide with nitrogen in our atmosphere, they light up the sky with blue and purple,” NASA said.
Bob Hines, a pilot currently on the ISS, took the photo and several others he posted on Twitter last week, noting “absolutely SPECTACULAR aurora today!!”
On Twitter, Hines answered a few questions about the footage, including a tweet that asked, “Are you tweeting from space?
“Yeah,” Hines replied.
On Instagram, the image had nearly 1 million likes on Wednesday, including one from rock band Garbage. Along with the images, NASA encouraged its followers to “Let Your Light Shine”.
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Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.