Fires Down Under
Sep 29, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, when the International Space Center was looping around the southern part of the globe, heading toward Antarctica from Australia, astronauts used the little digital camera on board to snap this picture.
The fires were intentionally set by farmers clearing fields or pastures to make way for spring growth. The green horizon is the Aurora Australis, bright pulses of electromagnetic energy released when solar pulses are deflected toward the earth's southern magnetic pole. Green is the most common color of auroras, produced when solar energy disrupts the normal spinning of oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere; auroras can also be red, pink, or orange, depending on the atmospheric gases involved.
The space station itself is visible across the top of this photo and in the lower right corner.