NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 11 January 2023: Auroras spiralling in the Icelandic sky | Tech News

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 11 January 2023: Auroras spiralling in the Icelandic sky

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a mesmerizing snapshot of Auroras spiralling over the night-sky in Iceland.

| Updated on: Jan 11 2023, 12:29 IST
In Pics: What are Northern lights? 5 facts about this stunning Aurora phenomenon
1/5 Auroras or Northern lights are shifting curtains of light in greens, blues and pinks which light up the night sky in the Northern and Southern poles. They are called Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis in the North Pole and Southern Lights or Aurora Australis in the South Pole. (AFP)
2/5 Auroras occur at the northern and southern poles, according to NASA. Occasionally, space weather interacting with Earth can cause auroras to extend even further away from the poles. These mesmerizing lights are constantly changing shape and intensity, from dim and scattered, to bright enough that they are visible for miles. (TWAN/Kwon O Chul)
3/5 According to NASA, when a solar storm interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, it results in the formation of Geomagnetic storms. The solar particles released during this interact with the various gases present in our atmosphere and form stunning Auroras which are a sight to behold, especially from places like Reykjavik in Iceland and Svalbard in Norway. (NOAA)
4/5 Did you know that Auroras form on other planets too? Yes! Not only Earth, but Auroras have been seen on planets like Jupiter and Saturn. NASA says that if a planet has an atmosphere and a magnetic field, Auroras can form if the conditions are right! (NASA)
5/5 Scientists study aurora from a variety of vantage points: below, above, and within. From below, ground based telescopes and radar look upward to track what’s happening in the sky. From above, NASA missions such as THEMIS investigate what causes auroras to dramatically shift from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of colour, according to the space agency. (NASA)
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Stefano Pellegrini captured this stunning picture of Auroras over Iceland. (NASA/Stefano Pellegrini)

Scientists have long studied Auroras to better understand the workings of Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind. Auroras, also known as the Northern and Southern Lights, put on a mesmerizing show of lights in the night skies of the polar regions. Although auroras are usually green in colour, they can appear as pink sometimes too. Green auroras are formed when energy particles hit the oxygen atoms at 100 km to 300 km from the surface of the planet. But when particles hit at a height lower than 100 km, it results in the formation of pink auroras.

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a mesmerizing snapshot of Spiral Auroras captured over a rock arch in the northwest coast of Iceland. The rock arch is known as Gatklettur where the larger rocks span as long as a meter across. Spiral auroras can be seen canvassing the sky in the shades of green. The image was captured by Stefano Pellegrini, an astrophotographer based in Milan, Italy. Although Pellegrini started astrophotography only in 2019, the pandemic helped him in honing his skills to capture breathtaking stills.

NASA's explanation of the picture

The scene may look like a fantasy, but it's really Iceland. The rock arch is named Gatklettur and located on the island's northwest coast. Some of the larger rocks in the foreground span a meter across. The fog over the rocks is really moving waves averaged over long exposures. The featured image is a composite of several foreground and background shots taken with the same camera and from the same location on the same night last November. The location was picked for its picturesque foreground, but the timing was planned for its colorful background: aurora.

The spiral aurora, far behind the arch, was one of the brightest seen in the astrophotographer's life. The coiled pattern was fleeting, though, as auroral patterns waved and danced for hours during the cold night. Far in the background were the unchanging stars, with Earth's rotation causing them to appear to slowly circle the sky's northernmost point near Polaris.

About Auroras

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are typically seen in the northern polar regions, including in places like Canada, Alaska, and Norway. The Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, are seen in the southern polar regions, such as Antarctica and southern parts of South America, Africa, and Australia.

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First Published Date: 11 Jan, 12:28 IST