Along with transporting satellites and experiments to and from orbit, the shuttle astronauts have taken tens of thousands of photographs of Earth with handheld cameras. These photographs have documented many intriguing phenomena on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere. In this view, the pale green glow of the Aurora Australus (the “southern lights”) shines above the Antarctic continent, visible at upper left. Interactions between the solar wind, constantly blowing away from the Sun, and Earth’s magnetic field provide the power source for auroal phenomena around both poles. Atmospheric constituents are stimulated to emit light by the impacting solar particles; oxygen is the major contributor to the emitted light visible here at both green and red wavelengths.
Space shuttle photograph S39-23-020.