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Astronauts Snap Stunning Light Display From Space
An astronaut photograph of auroras dancing over North America.
Credit: NASA.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station got an eyeful when their spacecraft flew over the dancing lights of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, on full display over the Pacific Northwest.

The above photograph, snapped on Jan. 26, shows the shimmering green lights of the famed nighttime phenomenon over Seattle and Vancouver.

 

And, if the Sun and atmosphere cooperate, there may be many more impressive images to come. 

The Canadian Space Agency is partnering with the crew aboard the ISS to document the aurora borealis from above as a network of CSA partners document the phenomena from the ground below, providing two simultaneous views of the moving light displays.

The pilot project is set to last for six weeks.

 

Spotting these streamers of light requires the right conditions: a dark sky, and a large enough influx of solar energy.

Auroras occur when charged particles ejected from the sun hit gases high in the polar regions of Earth's atmosphere.

Although they're typically only visible in extremely high latitudes, when the sun is particularly active the curtains of otherworldly light can be seen farther south. They've even been glimpsed in Texas.

The northern lights occur in a slice of the atmosphere stretching from about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to 250 miles (400 km) above the planet. Since the ISS orbits at an altitude of about 230 miles (370 km), the spacecraft is perfect situated to offer the astronauts on board some breathtaking views of the dazzling lights.

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