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Fire in the sky and on the ground

Astronauts on the International Space Station used a digital camera to capture several hundred photographs of the aurora australis while passing over the Indian Ocean on September 17, 2011. Watch this video to see the flowing ribbons and rays below as the ISS passed from south of Madagascar to just north of Australia between 17:22 and 17:45 Universal Time. Solar panels and other sections of the ISS fill some of the upper right side of the photograph.

Auroras are a spectacular sign that our planet is electrically and magnetically connected to the Sun. These light shows are provoked by energy from the Sun and fueled by electrically charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere. In this case, the space around Earth was stirred up by an explosion of hot, ionized gas from the Sun that left the Sun on September 14, 2011.

In the second image, light from the ground replaces the light show in the sky. Wildfires and perhaps some intentionally set agricultural fires burn on the continent of Australia, with smoke plumes faintly visible in the night sky. A gold and green halo of atmospheric airglow hangs above the horizon in the distance.

earthobservatory.nasa.gov »