Awesome Aurora Photographed by Shuttle/ISS Crews


The STS-135 crew of space shuttle Atlantis and the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station were treated with great views of the Aurora Australis. Here’s one shot the crews photographed, showing a panoramic view of the station/shuttle complex along with several different astronomical beauties! The aurora shows up brightly, but what else is in the image? Looking closely –and southern hemisphere observers might recognize some objects better — but do you see the globular cluster Omega Centauri, the Coalsack Nebula and the Southern Cross? Anyone see anything else?

See below for another great aurora shot from the ISS, where the green glow shows up even better:

The Southern Lights or Aurora Australis as seen from the space station and space shuttle. Credit: NASA

These images were taken on Thursday during one of the “night” passes for the station/shuttle. The astronauts mentioned the aurora during media interviews on Friday. “We saw an incredible Southern Lights aurora,” said STS-135 pilot Doug Hurley. “It was the best one I’ve seen in my two spaceflights. It was just unbelievable, the view out the cupola.”

See larger views on NASA’s mission gallery page.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

View Comments

  • It looks like the shuttle's arm is stirring the Earth's cloud layer...or trying to suck it up a straw? ;)

  • A careful look at the panoramic image at top shows a remarkable view of the southern Milky Way running left-to-right across the center of the image (helps to increase the size of the image). Crux and the Coal Sack can be seen just below center, between the robotic arms and appearing just above the "porch" on the Japanese Kibo module. To their left are the bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri. Views of Milky Way vistas from the ISS are not too common, so I was surprised to see such a well known portion of our galaxy hovering between the aurora and the station. They must have used a longish exposure to catch the aurora (resulting in 'globe blur') and got the galactic view as an extra bonus.

    Some great images from this last shuttle mission.

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