European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet never ceases to amaze with his daily photographs captured aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and his latest is of an aurora with a luminous green red slow as clouds swirl around Earth. This phenomenon occurs when solar wind, which is a stream of charged particles from the sun, interacts with Earth’s magnetic field. The interaction causes the particles to accelerate as they enter Earth’s upper atmosphere, colliding with atoms and molecules. Read more for a video and additional information.
The collision of atoms and molecules causes them to gain energy, which they then are released as light. Simply put, whenever you see a glowing aurora, you’re watching a billion individual collisions, lighting up the magnetic field lines of Earth. What causes the different colors? The various ions in the atmosphere emit different colors of light, like oxygen atoms give off a green or red light, while nitrogen atoms emit orange or red light.
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Another aurora but this one is special as it is so bright. It is the full Moon lighting up the shadow side of Earth almost like daylight,” said Thomas Pesquet, European Space Agency astronaut.