NASA has shared a breathtaking image of Earth’s ‘airglow’ taken from the International Space Station. The picture, captured on November 14, 2023, shows the airglow outlining the planet’s horizon with the Moon above. The International Space Station was orbiting 260 miles above the midwestern United States at the time.
Describing the image on Instagram, NASA stated, “A view of Earth from the space station during orbital night. The Moon is above Earth nearly centered above the surface. An airglow outlines the atmosphere above the Earth’s surface in a yellow shade. Lights from cities dot Earth’s surface – among them, a concentration of lights near the horizon identifies the city of Chicago, while the concentration of lights closer to the bottom left identifies Denver.”
Airglow occurs when atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere emit light after being excited by sunlight. NASA explains that auroras and airglow may appear similar but are formed through different processes. Auroras are driven by high-energy particles from the solar wind, while airglow is sparked by day-to-day solar radiation.
Studying airglow provides valuable insights into the temperature, density, and composition of the upper atmosphere. It also helps trace the movement of particles through the region. NASA highlights that airglow’s subtle dance follows the lead of vast, high-altitude winds in the ionosphere, revealing global patterns.
The image has received over 780,000 likes and numerous comments since it was shared on Instagram. Users have described it as “amazing” and “beautiful,” with one person even likening it to being in a movie.
Earlier, NASA also shared a stunning picture of an aurora captured from the International Space Station. The image showed a dazzling green aurora creating a brilliant halo above Utah, US, on a Sunday night.