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Aurora borealis

Aurora borealis

E115/0337

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17.7 MB (996.7 KB compressed)

3060 x 2027 pixels

25.9 x 17.3 cm ⏐ 10.2 x 6.8 in (300dpi)

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Credit

NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Aurora borealis or northern lights display, seen from the International Space Station (ISS). This viewpoint allows study of the vertical variations in the aurorae. 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 comes from oxygen atoms. The displays can be hundreds of kilometres above the Earth. The ISS orbits around 380 kilometres above the Earth. Photographed on 4 October 2001, over Canada.

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