Aurora Australis from space. View from the Space Shuttle Discovery of the Aurora Australis, or southern lights. Auroral displays are caused by interactions between energetic charged particles from the Sun, and the Earth's atmosphere. Moving at 400-500 kilometres a second, the charged particles of the solar wind are drawn by Earth's magnetic field to the poles, where they collide with gas atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light. Green light is from oxygen atoms, faint red from nitrogen molecules. The displays can be hundreds of kilometres above the Earth. Image taken during mission STS-114 'Return to Flight'.
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