Stunning video from space captures northern lights
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 7:38PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:24AM EDT
Mesmerizing new video captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station reveals a stunning view of the aurora borealis last month as a solar flare triggered an especially vivid display in the night sky.
Astronauts on the ISS viewed the phenomenon from above, capturing two videos in late January made from time-lapse photographs.
One of the videos, shot on Jan. 29, records a bird's eye perspective as the orbiting ISS passes over the East Coast of North America, from just southwest of Mexico to the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Newfoundland.
At first, the footage reveals southeastern U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Mobile, Jacksonville and Atlanta -- their urban light pollution showing up as a golden glow contrasted with the dark of the nighttime Earth outside of the cities.
As the ISS travels northeast, the horizon slowly becomes illuminated by a green glow, which eventually gives way to a vivid, dancing display of northern lights following the curvature of the earth.
Another video, recorded on Jan. 25 as the orbiting ISS travelled across Southwest Canada at night, begins near the border of B.C. and Washington State, near Vancouver Island, and heads to southern Alberta, near Calgary.
In this video, the camera has a more direct view of the phenomenon.
Instead of capturing the Aurora Borealis on the far-off horizon, the dancing green lights are almost beneath the ISS, appearing as shimmering clouds dancing over Canada, with thin fingers reaching up towards space.
Adding to the mystique of the ghostly images in both videos are the presence of man-made lights from cities far below, casting a golden-light on the frame and contrasting sharply with both the dark surface of the earth outside of the urban areas, and with the aurora borealis itself.
The videos were created by the Crew Earth Observations team at Johnson Space Center, and were made from still images taken over a five- to 10-minute time period.
Other videos on the group's website capture the aurora borealis as it travels from Mexico to New Brunswick, North Dakota to Quebec, over the Pacific Ocean and the Central Great Plains, among others.
The International Space Station travels at more than 28,000 km/h and sits roughly 320 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.