An image, taken from aboard the International Space Station, shows the aurora australis as it streams across the Earth’s atmosphere as the station orbited 271 miles above the southern Indian Ocean between Asia and Antarctica.
Named for the Roman goddess of dawn, the aurora is a captivating display of light in the night sky. The aurora borealis and aurora australis — also called the northern lights and southern lights — occur at the northern and southern poles.
An aurora is a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic). Auroras display dynamic patterns of brilliant lights that appear as curtains, rays, spirals or dynamic flickers covering the entire sky.
Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. These disturbances alter the trajectories of charged particles in the magnetospheric plasma. These particles, mainly electrons and protons, precipitate into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere).
The resulting ionisation and excitation of atmospheric constituents emit light of varying colour and complexity.
The form of the aurora, occurring within bands around both polar regions, is also dependent on the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles.
Most of the planets in the solar system, some natural satellites, brown dwarfs, and even comets also host auroras.
Image Credit: NASA