Taken from the International Space Station, the snapshot shows an aurora borealis along with an airglow.
The crew of expedition number 62 to the International Space Station (ISS) has captured an incredible snapshot: an aurora borealis together with a night luminescence , two phenomena of the Earth’s atmosphere in a single image. The photo was taken on March 16 , when the ISS was flying south of the Alaska Peninsula , while particles from the upper atmosphere interacted in different ways, according to NASA .
The aurora is what stands out the most in the photo: in bright green with red dots in the left area, it is a phenomenon that occurs when charged particles from the solar wind hit the Earth’s magnetosphere, a kind of protective layer. Mixed with atmospheric gases such as oxygen and nitrogen, the particles create these colorful greenish colors. As for the red dots, they are the excess energy released by oxygen atoms stimulated by the power of the solar wind.
The other phenomenon is the band of yellow and red light that can be seen on the right side of the image. Known as ” airglow ” or night luminescence , it is light emissions caused by the restructuring of atoms into molecules that had been ionized by sunlight during the day, or by cosmic rays. That is, oxygen that has been decomposed during the day recombines and releases its extra energy as photons during the night .
Nitrogen molecules and reactions between nitrogen and oxygen also contribute to this glow. The photons released in this case appear green, as in this image, but yellow sometimes occurs in a lower layer (about 80 to 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface). Meteorites break into this layer of the atmosphere and release sodium atoms into the air , hence it is aptly called the sodium layer; the sodium atoms create a yellow glow.
On the other hand, the sun behind the Earth makes the edge of the planet appear dark blue . This happens for the same reason that the sky is blue during the day: when sunlight hits molecules in our atmosphere, blue light (one of the shorter wavelengths) is scattered, while light from other colors are allowed to pass. A magical snapshot that reminds us of the wonderful phenomena that occur in the highest layers of our world.