Aurora from above

Lots of people in high latitudes get to look up at the aurora borealis (or australis as the case may be). But it’s a rare soul who gets to look down on the aurora. Imagine looking out your window and seeing this boiling phosphorescent sea.

Good day to be an astronaut! I was going to say it’s a shame about the extra radiation pounding on the observing astronauts. After all, you might expect ionizing radiation that can squeeze green light out of thin air might make your delicate organs shine with purple fire. But it turns out that aurora at night is a spacefarer’s delight. It actually decreases the radiation impinging on the Space Station.

Here’s a link to the credible version of the story from NASA, but think of it this way. A solar flare is like a gargantuan coughing fit. All that phlegm and sputum from the sun gets in the way of visiting cosmic rays, and that’s a good thing if you’re an orbiting testicle. Or any other part of an astronaut, I suppose.

In other news, my sister-in-law sends this. I dare you not to click on napping panda babies!

(Video via Steve Crandall. Pandas via Anne.)

1 thought on “Aurora from above”

  1. The Shuttle mission I worked back in ’91 (STS-39) called for the payload specialists to consider any aurora as observational targets of opportunity (i.e, if you see one, “drop” everything, and start snapping pictures!). It resulted in this great image:

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