Northern Lights in pictures: Aurora Borealis photo captured on Space Station | Science | News

The beautiful photo comes courtesy of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst who is currently barrelling over the planet inside the ISS.

The astronaut snapped a picture of the Northern Lights on the nightside of the planet during one of his 15 daily orbits of Earth.

Dr Gerst tweeted the picture from the space laboratory, saying the billowing show of lights above Earth never ceases to amaze him.

The ISS astronaut posted: “Mind-blowing, every single time. I wonder what early explorers thought when they first saw an aurora without ever having heard about it.”

The spectacular aurora effect is created by supercharged particles ejected from the Sun smashing into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The charged particles excite the various gases in the atmosphere, causing them to change colour into , for the time being, shades of green, blue, purple, red and yellow.

Auroras typically appear in the Northern and Southern Polar regions where they give birth to the Northern and Southern Lights.

Space agency  explained: “The dancing lights of the auroras provide spectacular views on the ground and from space, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the Sun.

“Auroras are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the Sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections.

“After a trip toward Earth that can last two or three days, the solar particles and magnetic fields cause the release of particles already trapped near Earth, which in turn trigger reactions in the upper atmosphere in which oxygen and nitrogen molecules release photons of light.”

The various colours released by the ebbing aurora are very much dependent on the composition of the air.

The Northern Lights are most commonly known for their intense green colour, with occasional flashes of blue and purple.

Blue auroras are associated with excited atomic nitrogen particles and , for the time being,.

Oxygen on the other hand is known to release yellow and green colours and sometimes even red when interacting with nitrogen.

But the colour red is not seen to often and is typically the result of periods of intense solar activity.

Red colours usually appear higher up in the atmosphere, around 150 miles above the planet’s surface.

Unfortunatelythere is no real guide towards spotting the Northern Lights in the wild because of the Sun’s notoriously fickle activity.

AuroraWatch advises it is hard to predict aurora activity more than two hours or so in advance before they happen.

The presence and intensity of the Northern Lights very much depends on solar activity and that is not always the easiest thing to predict.

At least for the time being you can follow Dr Gerst’s Twitter profile, , for frequent posts and snapshots taken onboard the ISS.

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