A solar storm sparked a shimmering aurora visible in space.
NASA astronaut Bob Hines caught the aurora on camera from the International Space Station on Wednesday (Aug. 17) following a moderate solar outburst.
“Absolutely SPECTACULAR aurora today!!!,” the NASA astronaut tweeted (opens in new tab), along with several pictures of the sun-generated storm that hit the atmosphere of Earth. “Thankful for the recent solar activity resulting in these wonderful sights.”
The northern lights were generated after the sun hurled enough charged particles towards our planet to produce a moderate or G2-class storm, according to SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab).
Related: Hyperactive sunspot just hurled a huge X-class solar flare into space
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The northern lights or aurora borealis occur when the sun sends a swarm of charged particles towards our planet, called a coronal mass ejection. Since the particles have electrical charge, Earth’s magnetic field attracts them.
The bits of the sun flow along the magnetic lines near our planet’s poles and generate a glow as atmospheric molecules are “excited” by the electrical activity. (Other planets and moons have auroras as well, through various mechanisms.)
In most cases, the solar storms we experience on Earth are harmless, but on occasion strong bursts of space weather can also create infrastructure problems as power lines, satellites or other machinery shorts out.
Hines, his roommates on the space station and other folks in space also need to be mindful of radiation associated with space weather and cosmic rays, which are generated from deep space. But medical doctors keep an eye on astronaut health before, during and after space missions.
European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti also saw auroras (opens in new tab) earlier this week.
In those bright nights around the full Moon you can see features on the planet surface even at night. From the Cupola the view is “upside down” – flying above clouds feels like looking up at the sky from Earth. Cloud gazing and stargazing at the same time! https://t.co/NyB2TQ7oIu pic.twitter.com/i7eXdO4RtEAugust 16, 2022
If you captured a stunning photo of the northern lights let us know! You can send in images and comments to Space.com by emailing email@example.com. Be sure to let us know your name, where you were observing from and what it was like to see the auroras.