Last week a relatively powerful solar flare hit Earth, triggering a light show near the poles – what are commonly known as the aurora. The phenomenon is the consequence both of the deflection of charged particles coming from our star towards the Earth’s polar zones and of the interaction between these particles and the gases in the upper atmosphere.
When our star ejects material and that material crosses Earth’s orbit, they collide with our planet’s magnetic field. Some high-energy particles are then captured in the Earth’s magnetic field lines before reaching an area called the auroral oval.
Astronaut captures the auroras of the last solar flare from the ISS
These particles, which are very concretely protons, electrons and positive ions, ionize the atoms of the ionosphere, which causes when this happens the emission of a photon of a wavelength corresponding to the element. However, as the proportion of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and other gases changes according to altitude, the color of the aurora can vary greatly.
The phenomenon thus often leads to the appearance of green draperies (linked to the ionization of oxygen), but also red, even purple, mauve or blue colors. Observed from Earth, this natural spectacle is already one of the most impressive. But photos taken by astronaut Bob “Farmer” Hines from the ISS show auroras like you’ve rarely seen.
Read also – A very intense solar storm brings aurora borealis to Scotland
This is not the first time such images have been captured from the ISS – and the astronaut adds that more impressive images are to be expected as solar activity continues. The solar storm that led to the auroras captured by Bob Hines was classified as “G2” ie as a moderate phenomenon. The photos you can admire in the tweet below were taken on August 17.
Absolutely SPECTACULAR aurora today!!! Thankful for the recent solar activity resulting in these wonderful sights! pic.twitter.com/aOD45XSWaX
— Bob “Farmer” Hines (@Astro_FarmerBob) August 18, 2022