Spectacular astronaut view of the northern lights • Earth.com

Spectacular astronaut view of the northern lights


Today’s Video of the Day from the European Space Agency features a time lapse of the Northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, captured from space. The images were acquired in November of 2021 during ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s second mission to the International Space Station, the Alpha mission. 

According to ESA, the camera was set up to take pictures at intervals of two per second, and the time lapse video plays 25 pictures a second. 

The fascinating light show, which can be viewed at both the north and south poles, is produced when energized particles from the sun slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour. Earth’s magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles, creating the fascinating waves of light. 

The earliest known record of the northern lights is in a cave painting in France that dates back 30,000 years.  In 1619, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei named the northern lights “aurora borealis” after the Roman goddess of dawn (Aurora) and the Greek god of the north wind (Boreas).

When Pesquet shared the stunning Alpha mission video on social media, he noted that the pictures were taken from the docked Crew Dragon spacecraft windows. Pesquet said it was the strongest aurora the crew had seen during their six months in space.

Video Credit: ESA

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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