Photo credit: Thomas Pesquet
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet spends his free time aboard the International Space Station capturing breathtaking photographs, and his latest of the Aurora Australis is definitely no exception. This blue color of the southern lights is a rare phenomenon, partially due to the added additional illumination from the Moon. The Moon was particularely high and very bright, illuminating the clouds to create a very special atmosphere. Read more for additional pictures and information.
The main components responsible for the aurora are essentially monoatomic oxygen (O), diatomic nitrogen (N2) and ionized diatomic nitrogen (N2+). Oxygen emits either a red-orange or a lemon-green glow, while the diatomic nitrogen gives off a deep red glow and its ionized form has a deep blue/purple sheen. When you see a blue aurora, it typically means high geomagnetic activity and only happens under very specific conditions.
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As a rule, the colors are set and never change but the three parameters stated above make the colors vary. Sometimes the color limits are quite defined but most of the time the entities mix with currents at different altitudes and create other colors like pink, yellow, emerald-blue, magenta, and purple. During periods of intense geomagnetic storms, you can potentially get a lot of different colors at once,” said the Aurora Borealis Observatory.