Anyone lucky enough to have seen an aurora in person can tell you that it’s a breathtaking sight, but even the stunning, swirling green stripes we can enjoy here on Earth pale in comparison to the view from space. In a new time-lapse video shot by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from his perch on the International Space Station, the gorgeous light show somehow manages to look even more amazing.
The natural display — often called “northern lights” or “southern lights” instead of its scientific name — is the result of charged particles from the sun colliding with the upper atmosphere of Earth. The resulting disturbance produces light of varying colors, though most of the time it appears as a bluish green. However, true blue, yellow, and even red auroras do occur from time to time.
Auroras are almost always seen in higher northern and southern latitudes, thanks to the magnetic field surrounding Earth. While the light itself is harmless and poses no danger, increased aurora activity can be the result of geomagnetic storms and other increased solar activity. Those events are capable of causing temporary outages and downtime of communications satellites and damaging vulnerable electronic infrastructure.
This new video was recorded on September 15th, and is actually the result of 711 individual photographs taken over a period of several hours. It’s a fantastic glimpse at a natural phenomenon that we understand well today, but was once seen by various cultures as evidence of supernatural deities making their presence known to mortals.