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Aurora australis

Aurora australis

E115/0339

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25.2 MB (1.8 MB compressed)

3661 x 2409 pixels

31.0 x 20.3 cm ⏐ 12.2 x 8.0 in (300dpi)

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Credit

NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Aurora australis or southern lights display, seen from the International Space Station (ISS). One of the ISS's solar panels is at lower right. 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. The ISS orbits around 380 kilometres above the Earth. Photographed on 3 June 2003.

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