A new video from NASA gives a glimpse of what an aurora looks like from the International Space Station — and it is stunning.
The 37-second video shows time-lapse footage of the aurora australis, commonly known as the southern lights. Astronauts aboard Expedition 52 got a firsthand look at this light show that, fittingly for the U.S. astronauts on board — Randolph Bresnik, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson — came in late June, just days before the Fourth of July.
Like fireworks on a much grander scale, auroras light up the sky in a dazzling show of green. They happen when the solar wind sends magnetized plasma particles from the sun out toward Earth; when those particles meet Earth’s atmosphere, they become colorful auroras.
The space station crew spotted this aurora as the station flew from south of Australia to above the southern Pacific Ocean.
This isn’t the first time astronauts have given us an amazing overhead view of an aurora. A seven-window observation deck on the space station gives astronauts incredible views of space and Earth, and many capture the kinds of photos and videos that only a space traveler can.
For example, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba took several photos of the aurora australis in 2012, and was absolutely blown away by the experience. “Within a couple of minutes, I could not believe what I was seeing. It was absolutely incredible,” Acaba wrote in a journal post at the time. “I enjoyed the show for a few minutes and then felt I had to inform my crew mates so they could also take in the view.”
It’s a view they certainly wouldn’t want to miss, and while most of us will never get the chance to see an aurora from above, these photos and videos are nice substitutes.
Editor’s Note: Video edited by Space.com senior producer Steve Spaleta.