We may have been the last folk to see the Aurora in Antarctica, but when it came, it was unforgettable.
Aurora Australis seen from Concordia Station 18 July 2012 Credit: ESA/IPEV/ENEAA/A. Kumar & E. Bondoux
Incredible displays of coloured light, termed Aurora, are produced by collisions, when electrically charged particles travelling from the sun impact with charged particles in the atmosphere, as they enter the atmosphere. Fluctuations in Sunspot activity create a solar wind - bringing the particle to Earth.
Aurora can be different colours - ranging from pink to red to green to blue. In fact, the different colours are caused by the involvement of different gas particles, and depend on their altitude of impact.
Aurora occur in the Northern (Aurora Borealis) and Southern Hemispheres (Aurora Australis).
Aurora Australis: Over the Southern Lights between Antarctic and Australia seen from the ISS, March 2012. Credit: ESA/NASA/André Kuipers
The reasons why they occur in the polar regions in greater intensity is due to the relative weakness in the magnetic field over the poles. Normally a magnetic field would deflect the particles and so being unable to deflect the particles, more particles enter in the polar regions.
A raw display of one of nature's most incredible sights dazzled our crew. The wind died down and life became still. To me, it was if Heaven had opened its windows and a teardrop had fallen from high above our station, breaking the dark lonely polar night.
We managed to snap a few photos before Heaven realised its mistake and closed its doors.
I was left gasping in awe at the magnificent universe we live in. For behind the trails of green left by the aurora, stood long and stern, the Milky Way Galaxy. It was simply the most wonderful sight I have ever seen and one I will never forget.
Looking at Concordia Station in the photo just makes you realise how small and insignificant we are, against the backdrop of the universe.
I leave you with the words I was reminded of in a poem by William Blake:
Father, O father! what do we here
In this land of unbelief and fear?
The Land of Dreams is better far,
Above the light of the morning star.
WILLIAM BLAKE, The Land of Dreams