Just take in that header image at the top of the page for a moment. That’s a real photo. It’s not some artist’s rendering or a trailer for an upcoming space epic. Astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted that photo from aboard the International Space Station (ISS) last Saturday, again proving that the unaltered cosmos can and will consistently drop our collective jaw.
Kelly — currently spending a year in space as a part of a groundbreaking twin study with his brother Mark (also an astronaut) — snapped a few photos of dazing auroras on Saturday, beginning with the photo below:
Auroras, known to many as the aurora borealis (in northern latitudes) or aurora australis (in southern latitudes), are serpentine ribbons of light that dance with color in the night. This poetry forms when incoming particles from space — solar wind and random cosmic rays make up most of these particles — interact with the Earth’s upper atmosphere and excite its gases, which emits light when trying to relive this excitement. Auroras receive their characteristic appearance as the charged particles are funneled along the Earth’s magnetic field lines.
Kelly’s weekend tweeting culminated in a brief yet absolutely stunning video of the ISS passing over auroras against a sunrise at five miles per second. Insert this into the intro of any movie about space ever and it would make it better:
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) August 15, 2015
“The sun is very active today, apparently,” tweeted Kelly.
Below is a larger version of Kelly’s mind-blowing photo, just in case you need an amazing cover for your sci-fi novel:
IMAGES: Scott Kelly, NASA