ISS astronauts witness 'spectacular' auroras from space (photos)

an aurora reaching into space from earth. a robot arm and a module are in the front, in shadow
NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli posted this picture of an aurora australis from the International Space Station on Feb. 15, 2024. In the foreground is the robotic Canadarm2 and a space station module. (Image credit: Jasmin Moghbeli/NASA/X)

Fresh aurora pictures from a NASA astronaut is making us green with envy.

Earlier this month, International Space Station astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli captured absolutely stunning pictures of a flag-like green aurora stretching from the southern regions of the Earth far up into space.

"The auroras from up here are spectacular," NASA's Moghbeli told during a Wednesday (Feb. 21) ISS press conference about science. Of the green auroras Moghbeli saw on Feb. 15, she said it was one of her space mission highlights witnessing "some green, some red that just swept across the surface of the Earth."

Related: 'Absolutely unreal:' NASA astronaut snaps amazing photo of auroras from space station

The ribbon-like aurora happen on Earth when our sun sends energetic particles towards Earth's upper atmosphere. Our planet's protective magnetic field in turn funnels the particles towards the poles, and the solar particles glow colorfully as they interact with our atmosphere.

An aurora visible over Utah from the International Space Station, photographed Oct. 28, 2023 by an Expedition 70 astronaut. (Image credit: NASA)

The astronauts on board ISS right now are seeing particularly spectacular aurora because the sun is nearing its 11-year maximum of solar activity. More flares and coronal mass ejections of particles means more auroral activity on Earth, too.

"I love it," Moghbeli said, "because every time I look out the window, I'm in awe. Every time, it's a little different, even if we're passing over the same part of the Earth. Whether the lights are different, or the clouds or the seasons or the sun angles, every single time I'm amazed at how alive and beautiful our planet is."

If you're looking to snap your own photos of auroras, be sure to check out our guide on how to photograph auroras, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: