Those fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis are always treated to a truly exquisite celestial display. But every time this stunning light show is captured on camera from space, it looks all the more awe-inspiring and otherworldly.
The aurora photos shared on Twitter last week by an astronaut on board the International Space Station (ISS) make no exception, offering a dazzling view of the bright green waves dancing over Earth, reports Space.com.
The spectacular photos were snapped by German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA), who posted them on social media on August 10.
In his tweet, Gerst described the aurora as “mind-blowing” and pondered over the effect such a wonderful apparition would have had on the very first people to witness the magnificent northern and southern lights.
“Mind-blowing, every single time. I wonder what early explorers thought when they first saw an aurora without ever having heard about it,” Gerts wrote on Twitter.
The astronaut’s Twitter followers jumped at the opportunity to admire the mesmerizing aurora as captured from space, thanking Gerst for sharing the photos.
“Auroras always remind me three things: the Earth is small, fragile and absolutely beautiful,” one Twitter user replied to Gerst’s post.
As NASA explains, auroras are produced by charged particles from the sun, seeping out either in the form of solar wind or through giant eruptions of the solar corona, known as coronal mass ejections. These particles disperse all over the solar system, reaching the planets’ atmospheres, where they encounter nitrogen and oxygen molecules.
“After a trip toward Earth that can last two to three days, the solar particles and magnetic fields cause the release of particles already trapped near Earth, which in turn trigger reactions in the upper atmosphere in which oxygen and nitrogen molecules release photons of light. The result: the northern and southern lights,” details the space agency.
According to the Express, intense green auroras are created when solar particles hit oxygen molecules in our planet’s upper atmosphere. These spectacular lights also flicker in yellow and can even be accompanied by purple flashes.
Meanwhile, the interaction with nitrogen molecules gives rise to stunning blue auroras, just like the ones spotted from the U.S. and Canada on April 20, per an Inquisitr report.
This is Gerst’s second stay on board the ISS, notes Space.com. The German astronaut arrived at the space station in early June, the Inquisitr reported at the time and is currently part of Expedition 56, slated to last until October.
During his first trip to space in 2014, Gerst took a series of snapshots revealing our planet as seen from the orbiting lab and compiled them into an amazing time-lapse video of Earth, as reported by the Inquisitr.