NASA continues to astonish space enthusiasts with captivating images of the universe captured by its array of spacecrafts. Among these are the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, and the International Space Station, where astronauts diligently conduct their research. Thanks to NASA’s cutting-edge technologies, we can now witness real-time visualizations of the Moon, Mars, stars, and galaxies. Recently, NASA unveiled another awe-inspiring image on Instagram, showcasing Earth’s mesmerizing airglow as seen from the International Space Station (ISS).
This image was taken on November 14, 2023 as it orbited over the United States. In the image, the Earth’s airglow outlines the planet’s horizon, and the Moon is above.
NASA wrote on Instagram: “Earth’s airglow outlines the planet’s horizon and the Moon above in this photo taken on November 14, 2023, from the International Space Station as it orbits 260 miles (418 km) above the US Midwest. In the lower right corner, the city lights of Denver and its suburbs shine. The bright lights of Chicago are in the background.”
What is Earth’s airglow?
According to NASA, when atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere are accelerated by sunlight and emit light to shed excess energy, this phenomenon is atmospheric. It is similar to the aurora. The only difference is that the aurora borealis is driven by high-energy particles from the solar wind, but the aurora borealis is created by daily solar radiation. As mentioned in the post, studying the aurora gives scientists a better understanding of the temperature, density and composition of the upper atmosphere. It also helps researchers track how the particles move through the area itself. NASA goes on to write, “Broad, high winds sweep through the ionosphere, pushing its contents around the Earth—and a subtle dance of airglow follows suit, accentuating global patterns.”
Unsurprisingly, the photo has garnered huge attention on Instagram. The picture has more than 8.1 million likes and has garnered numerous comments.
The accompanying NASA caption describes the scene: “A view from Earth’s Space Station during orbital night. The Moon is above Earth, almost above the surface. Airglow outlines the atmosphere above Earth’s surface in a yellow hue. City lights are on 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 lower left identifies Denver.”
These ongoing efforts by NASA to capture the beauty of space keep space enthusiasts excited and curious about our universe.