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Astronaut Captures Jaw-Dropping Photo of Aurora Blazing Gloriously Above Earth

Astronauts on the International Space Station see amazing things every day, but the aurora always blows their minds.

Thomas Pesquet, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, took a picture of the polar lights from about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth and sent it to the public on Friday. It’s one of the best pictures of the northern lights that the ISS has ever taken.

The photo, which Pesquet took on August 20, shows green ribbons stretching across the planet, arcing high up in the atmosphere near the horizon, and fading into spikes of red light in the distance. Under the colorful show, clouds are moving over the ocean.

“Another aurora but this one is special as it is so bright. It is the full moon lighting up the shadow side of Earth almost like daylight,” Pesquet said on Twitter.

He didn’t say where on the planet these lights were or whether they were the northern aurora borealis or the southern aurora australis.

In general, auroras happen when charged particles from the Sun hit the Earth. The Earth’s magnetic field guides the particles to the poles, where they meet up with particles in the air.

This stream of “solar wind,” as it’s called, flows over Earth all the time. But when the Sun erupts, it can send out bigger waves of particles, which can cause beautiful auroras like this one.

Anyone who goes around Earth is likely to see these lights. This month, SpaceX’s first tourist crew saw them while they were in orbit.

The name of that mission was “Inspiration4”, and it sent four regular people into orbit for three days. The mission’s leader, billionaire Jared Isaacman, responded to Pesquet’s photo on Twitter by saying that his crew had also seen the aurora, but “not like that.”

Pesquet also went to space on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, just like Isaacman’s group. He is part of Crew-2, the company’s second mission with a full crew of astronauts.

Megan McArthur, who works with Pesquet at NASA, told Insider last month that the polar lights have also amazed her.

“I wasn’t surprised by the auroras, but I was kind of bowled over by how breathtaking they really were, and how mesmerizing it was to see it with my own eyes,” she said.

Pesquet and McArthur are set to return to Earth in November.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.


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