Big Pic: Aurora Light Up Antarctic Night

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If the aurora glows over Antarctic and there's no one to see it, does

it have any color? Thanks to a robotic eye in space, we can answer the question. The aurora australis is the southern equivalent of

the aurora borealis. The former, also called the "southern lights," is seen here in unprecedented detail

from space with the NASA/NOAA Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite.

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On July 15, 2012, the aurora, triggered by a powerful coronal mass ejection launched from the Sun a few days earlier, lit up the ice of Queen Maud Land and the Princess Ragnhild Coast.

The image, though shown in grayscale, was captured with the VIIRS “day-night band,” which sees light from green to near-infrared. The slightly jagged appearance of the auroral

lines is caused the dance of the energetic particles raining down through Earth's magnetosphere, while at the

same time the satellite is moving and the VIIRS sensor is

scanning.

Full resolution images are available at NASA's Earth Observatory.