Auroras often add extra beauty to Earth’s sky whenever they occur. But have you imagined what auroras covering earth look like from space? To provide humans with a satisfactory view of auroras from space, NASA astronaut Josh Cassada captured this stunning image from the International Space Station which orbit at about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth on average.
On Feb. 28, the astronaut shared the fascinating image on Twitter with the caption, “Absolutely unreal.” The image reveals green auroras moving around Earth’s far northern latitudes. If you have ever seen auroras in pictures, you will surely realize the uniqueness of Cassada’s own shot from the ISS. The image reveals how the auroras were swirling and stretching for hundreds to thousands of miles around Earth’s poles.
What you should know about Auroras
Auroras often occur when charged particles discharged by the sun slam collide with several molecules in Earth’s atmosphere. The solar particles proceed to ionize those molecules and remove electrons from them. This reaction triggers the molecules to glow. Scientists at the Canadian Space Agency revealed that the ionized oxygen molecules produce the fluorescent greenish light displayed over Earth’s sky.
Nitrogen molecules create red or pinkish light over our sky, while hydrogen and helium molecules emit blue or purple light. Hence, when next you are watching the beautiful display from your telescopes or binoculars, you should use their color to determine the exact type of molecules producing them. Auroras are mostly seen at high latitudes.
This is because the charged solar particles move across Earth’s magnetic field lines and stop at the North and South poles. But when the sun releases massive plasma known as coronal mass ejection (CME), it tends to create more massive and widespread auroras that tend to appear at lower latitudes than normal.
How Astronaut Cassada Captured this image of auroras
Space.com reveals that two CME slam into our planet on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27. The sudden influx of charged particles led to the vast spread of aurora over the North pole. It was during this event at Astronaut Cassada captured this stunning photo from space. Astronomers reveal that CMEs are becoming more common as the sun moves closer to the peak of its 11-year activity cycle which will likely occur in 2025 based on current estimation.
Is CMEs Dangerous?
Some solar activities like the CMEs that just visited Earth are not harmful to humans. However, strong CMEs can destroy satellites, lead to power grid failures on Earth, and may possibly trigger radio blackouts.
Stunning photos from space often enable humans to see the beauty of our planet from space. The recent image captured by Cassada even revealed more fascinating beauty of Earth with Auroras hovering over it. What do you think about this fascinating view of Auroras covering Earth?