If it wasn’t bad enough that NASA astronauts get the prestige of being the only people to have left our atmosphere, they also get to see one of the greatest light shows on Earth.
Expedition 52 were treated to that very experience just a few days ago as they captured what might be one of the most stunning examples of the aurora yet.
Capture on 25 June, this latest video shows the ISS soaring over the light show at a serenely eye-popping 17,150 mph. Infuriatingly for the rest of us the ISS is one of the only places that gives humans an opportunity to see this phenomenon in all its glory.
The aurora borealis might look like it’s made for our enjoyment but it’s science in action.
Aurora occur when high-speed electrons collide with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. The electrons follow the magnetosphere (the protective magnetic field that our planet generates) and are accelerated.
Once at this high speed they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in Earth’s upper atmosphere causing them to transfer their energy to the upper atmosphere.
Finally the molecules calm down and as they slow down they release their energy in the form of light, it’s this calming effect that then causes the light show we see in the sky. Incidentally it’s also how neon lights work.