NASA astronaut aboard ISS shares ‘absolutely unreal’ view of aurora on Earth

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION — Photographs of the colorful aurora borealis, also known as the “northern lights,” are frequently shared by spectators marveling over the magnificent phenomenon. Now, an extraordinary photograph of this week’s aurora was captured by a NASA astronaut — from space.

NASA’s Josh Cassada captured the light display from 250 miles up while aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The photographs show an aquamarine haze glazing the Earth’s atmosphere and settling over a vast portion of the planet. Bright lights from big cities add an extra layer of mystique, almost looking like glowing craters.

Seemingly at a loss for words, the Minnesota-born physicist and U.S. Navy test pilot commented on Tuesday (28 Feb): “Absolutely unreal.”

An aurora is a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions around the Arctic and Antarctic. Auroras display dynamic patterns of brilliant lights that appear as curtains, rays, spirals, or dynamic flickers covering the entire sky. They are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by the solar wind.

Cassada has been working on the ISS since October as part of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission. The beautiful light show is certainly a fantastic way to wind down his final days in space as he’s set to return to Earth this month.

Here’s one more look at Cassada’s aurora photo for your viewing pleasure:

Aurora seen from space by NASA astronaut Josh Cassada
Aurora photographed from space by NASA astronaut Josh Cassada (Credit: NASA / Josh Cassada)

Beautiful views of vibrant aurora have been pleasing millions of spectators in recent weeks. These photographs were shared from individuals in the United Kingdom. “It was the best display I have ever seen from England,” says Steven Lomas, one of the British photographers.

Northern Lights aurora from UK
Northern Lights aurora as seen in the United Kingdom (Credit: South West News Service)
Northern Lights in the United Kingdom
A photograph of the Northern Lights/Aurora borealis, at Southwold, Suffolk taken on the evening of February 27th, 2023.
Aurora photographed in the UK
The northern lights over the Herd Groyne Lighthouse in South Shields taken Monday (Feb 27) night. “It was the best display I have ever seen from England,” says Steven Lomas.
Aurora photographed in the United Kingdom
Aurora/northern lights at ~9.15 p.m. on February 27, 2013, over Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye. (Credit: South West News Service)

Last week a British passenger aboard an airplane flying through Norway also captured an unusual view of the northern lights — right from his seat of his flight. Paul Botten, 50, found his journey home from Norway delayed on February 23, but the resulting night flight meant a stunning show of aurora. He managed to snap the vibrant colors on his iPhone at 30,000 feet.

“I work in the travel industry as a lead guide on various weather atmospheric-related holidays, from chasing tornadoes to sighting aurora borealis,” Botten says. “I was testing the capabilities of the IPhone 13 Max against DSLR cameras and was amazed to see the results, especially when unexpectedly seeing them on a blizzard-related delay out from Tromso.

Aurora seen from airplane in Norway
Aurora photographed by Paul Botten while aboard airplane in Norway. (Credit: South West News Service / Paul Botten)

“We were supposed to take off at 4pm and the delay meant it was darkness when we got through the clouds and the aurora was already very active even at 6:30pm, with sunset visible way off to the west that you can see in the pictures,” he continues. “The captain turned off the lights and people ended up taking pictures for the next 15 minutes on their phones. The delay meant an overnight stay in Oslo, as we missed our connecting flight to Heathrow, but most of the plane were happy in a strange way as the free light show was the pay off. It was a magical event above Norway.”

Looking to get an up-close view of the aurora borealis yourself? Be sure to read StudyFinds’ Best Places To See The Northern Lights article, which ranks Tromsø, Norway tops in the world.

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South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

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