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Astronaut captures ‘unreal’ aurora image from space station

A geomagnetic storm caused by a series of recent explosive events on the sun has brought spectacular auroras to parts of Earth in recent days.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) 250 miles above our planet have also been enjoying the amazing light show, with ISS inhabitant Josh Cassada sharing a stunning image that he captured just recently.

“Absolutely unreal,” Cassada tweeted alongside the image, which shows not only the gorgeous greens of the aurora, but also city lights on Earth, and part of the space station.

Absolutely unreal.

— Josh Cassada (@astro_josh) February 28, 2023

Auroras happen when particles from incoming solar storms strike gases in Earth’s atmosphere. The resulting collisions often result in these colorful displays above Earth’s surface.

Here on terra firma, the natural phenomenon is usually best viewed in the far north in places like Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. On the other side of Earth, in the far south, places like Tasmania and New Zealand are usually the best spots to view an aurora.

But in recent days, particularly powerful solar flares from the sun have caused the aurora to stretch much further south than usual, giving skywatchers who live in those locations a rare chance to see the light show without having to trek to locations in the far north or south.

As for ISS astronauts, their enviable location means it’s not unusual for them to witness a number of aurora during their six-month missions aboard the orbital outpost.

Cassada, for example, will likely have seen a few other aurorae while living and working in space, as he arrived at the ISS five months ago as part of SpaceX’s Crew-5 team.

But judging by the comment in his tweet, this latest one appears to have moved him the most.

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Trevor Mogg
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