The green fire of the aurora, seen from space

By Phil Plait | April 3, 2012 6:00 am

On March 4, 2012, the International Space Station passed over the Indian Ocean. Solar activity was high, and a gorgeous aurora raged in Earth’s upper atmosphere, yet still below the astronauts. On board the ISS, an astronaut took a series of still photos which were later put together into this video:

[Set the resolution to hi-def to really see the detail.]

Isn’t that lovely? I added the music (Supernatural by Kevin MacLeod at Did you spot the moving light, traveling from left to right just as the video begins? That’s almost certainly another satellite, moving along its own orbit hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.

I’ve written about aurorae (like here) and this method of time lapse photography many times; check out Related Posts below. With the Sun still being tempestuous, expect to see lots more gorgeous photography of our active geomagnetic field over the coming months!

Tip o’ the spacesuit visor: Remi Boucher. Credits: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." Here’s the original footage. Music: Kevin Macleod,

Related Posts:

JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!
Flying around the Earth
The stars, from orbit
Real time footage of aurora shows them dancing and shimmering

Comments (9)

  1. Sam42

    Is there a real-time video taken from the ISS online anywhere? I’d love to see how fast the Earth actually appears to move below them… I assume it is much slower than in this!

  2. Just stunning. They look beautiful from here on Earth, but even more so from way, WAY above!

  3. Now, the real question is, where was this actually filmed? It is clearly a fake. As we know from moon landing pictures, there are no stars visible in the sky. So why are there stars? Hmm? Answer me that, Mr. I’m-an-astronomer-who-wrote-a-book!!!one!eleventy!!

    Took me a few playbacks to see the satellite. If anyone else missed it, too, make sure to up the quality and view in full-screen. The speck starts off “behind” the bright spot of the aurorae above the left limb of the Earth.

  4. Chris A.

    I can’t help but wonder if, in addition to appreciating the beauty, astronauts find the aurora a little bit chilling, knowing that, like the atmosphere, they too are receiving a larger-than-normal dose of ionizing radiation.

  5. @ Sam42

    Is there a real-time video taken from the ISS online anywhere? I’d love to see how fast the Earth actually appears to move below them… I assume it is much slower than in this!

    A movie was released last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of man in space that used footage from the ISS to recreate the views of the Earth that Gagarin could have seen: First Orbit.
    1 hour 40 minutes of realtime space footage, with an original soundtrack + the actual mission audio recordings!

    But the ISS is fast. It has an orbital period – the time it takes to complete one full orbit – of just an hour and and a half.

  6. So do these astronauts ever think,
    “In order to impact the atmosphere and ionize all that oxygen to make the pretty green light, all these high energy particles need to pass through our bodies first on their way down.”

  7. Hugo Schmidt

    Is this CME causing the we’re having?

  8. bassmanpete

    @ Hugo; economic crisis, weather, flatulence? Which is it?


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