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Fly over the southern lights in the space station

A time-lapse video from the International Space Station features a flyover of the southern lights.

It's been a great summer for auroral displays, and especially from space. Here's a time-lapse video showing the International Space Station's passage over the southern lights on Sept. 11. The tour begins with the station arcing southeast over eastern Australia, passing over New Zealand and then heading northeast in its inclined orbit. There's a dense cloud cover over Earth's surface, but that just makes the ripples of green light stand out even more.

The 26-second video was compiled from about 16 minutes' worth of photo-snapping by the space station's crew, from their vantage point in the orbiting outpost's Cupola observation deck. (Make sure you're watching the PhotoBlog wide-screen version.)


North or south, auroral lights are sparked when electrically charged ions from the solar wind interact with atoms in the upper atmosphere. In an advisory about the video, NASA notes that green is the most common auroral shade, coming from the light emitted from emitted oxygen atoms. Flashes of red show up here and there. You can also see a golden glow visible along the rim of the atmosphere, just above the curving horizon. That airglow is caused by the excitation of atoms by ultraviolet radiation.

For a big assortment of Earth views from NASA, check out the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, and for auroral views feast your eyes on SpaceWeather.com's Aurora Gallery. Here are a few more must-see examples of our Earth at night, as seen from the International Space Station:


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