A recent image taken from the International Space Station reveals a golden glow shining over Earth’s horizon. Scientists say that the atmospheric glow or airglow captured in the new image often occurs when sunlight interacts with atoms and molecules that reside in Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA shared the new image on Jan. 21. The view of the new photo reveals a bright golden glow arching above Earth. An auburn-colored band could also be seen against the dark contrast of a starry sky backdrop.
NASA’s image description reveals that the new photo was captured at an altitude of 258 miles (415 kilometers) as the International Space Station flew over the Pacific Ocean northeast of Papua New Guinea.
What Causes the Airglow That Makes Earth’s atmosphere glow gold?
Airglow occurs due to the interaction within Earth’s upper atmosphere. Molecules of nitrogen, sodium, oxygen, and ozone within this region are excited by ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.
In response to that occurrence, they emit light as they collide with each other. Astronomers reveal that this unique type of light astronomical event is better observed at night. The new photo was taken at a high exposure, which allowed enough light to pass through the camera to Earth and the stars that clouded our sky.
Keep in mind that the International Space Station (ISS) travels around Earth every 90 minutes at a speed of 5 miles (8 kilometers) per second. The ISS is also opportune to observe 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hours.
The orbiting laboratory experiences about 45 minutes of daylight and 45 minutes of darkness during each moving around Earth. The new photo also reveals white wispy cloud tops above the dark blue of the Pacific Ocean alongside its colorful golden auburn glow.
Some parts of the ISS were also captured in the new image. These parts include the Prichal docking module and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Both of them belong to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
We should be expecting more historic images like this from the International Space Station in the future.