Astronaut Takes Stunning Pic of Southern Lights Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

by Jennifer Shea

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station snapped a stunning picture of the Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, in the light of a full moon.

In his picture, the aurora took on a bluish hue, though it is usually green tinged with red or purple, the Daily Mail reports.

French aerospace engineer Thomas Pesquet, 43, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, explained the effect in a Facebook post. He said the light from the moon is what made the difference.

“As the Moon was high and bright, it lit up the clouds from above, which created a distinct atmosphere… and almost turned the aurora blue,” Pesquet posted. “What’s next, Mother Nature? A yellow one? A giant rainbow?”

See a picture of the aurora here:

Astronaut Has Witnessed Multiple Auroras

Auroras appear when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and run into oxygen and nitrogen particles in our atmosphere. They occur at the north and south poles, so people at extreme latitudes are more likely to see one.

Pesquet said he’s seen “so many in the span of a few days” on his current mission.

The Southern Lights are known as Aurora Australis, from the Latin word for “southern” – and yes, that Latin term is the source of Australia’s name. The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, come from the Latin term for “dawn of the north.”

People in Tasmania and Antarctica typically have the best vantage on the Southern Lights.

Pesquet Is On the Space Station for Research Purposes

There are currently seven astronauts on the International Space Station. Along with Pesquet, they are all there to conduct research. The $100 billion laboratory orbits the Earth from 250 miles above us.

Pesquet is on his second tour in the space station. He also floated through space in November of 206 on the Proxima mission, which lasted six months, and on which he served as flight engineer. His current mission is Mission Alpha.

Since November of 2000, the space station has maintained a permanent staff composed of rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts. Their research typically requires the low-gravity or low-oxygen conditions that occur in the space station’s low Earth orbit. Past experiments have looked into astronomy, life sciences, physical sciences, meteorology and space medicine.

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) spends roughly $3 billion per year on the space station.