Superbright aurora lights up the night side of the Earth in an incredible image from space

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured a striking new photo of the bright green and red lights of an aurora embracing clouds swirling around the night side of Earth.

“Another aurora, but this one is special because it is so bright,” wrote European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet on Instagram and Twitter. “It is the full Moon illuminating the dark side of the Earth almost like daylight.” Pesquet took the photo on August 20.

It’s unclear whether the lights were the Northern Lights, known as the Northern Lights, or its southern counterpart, the Northern Lights, according to Business Insider. The auroras, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, can be clearly seen from the ground and from space, such as aboard the ISS, where many astronauts have taken photos of ghostly light shows.

Related: The Best Equipment for Aurora Photography
More: Aurora Borealis: 8 Dazzling Facts About Auroras

Auroras are the result of the interaction between the solar wind, a stream of charged particles from the sun, and the Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field accelerates particles as they enter Earth’s upper atmosphere, where they collide with atoms and molecules, according to NASA.

Related: Where and how to photograph the aurora.

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This collision causes atmospheric atoms and molecules to gain energy, which they then release as light. “When we see the bright aurora, we are seeing a billion individual collisions, illuminating the lines of Earth’s magnetic field,” says NASA. Different ions in the atmosphere emit light of different colors; Oxygen atoms emit green or red light, while nitrogen atoms emit orange or red light, Live Science previously reported.

The Earth’s magnetic field guides solar particles toward the poles, which is where auroras are normally observed. But during large geomagnetic storms, auroras can be observed in areas outside the poles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Geomagnetic storms occur when huge amounts of plasma, or charged particles, escape from the sun’s atmosphere and hit our planet’s magnetic field, Live Science previously reported.

Originally posted on Live Science.

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