Teardrop from Heaven: Aurora Australis

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 Credit: ESA/A. Kumar

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. Credit: ESA/NASA/André Kuipers

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



  • GinaDi says:

    Hi to the teams out there! ISS, ESA & Concordia!
    Greatfull for those who contribute in helping for advancement in exploration behond mother Earth.
    I truly appreciate being able to get a glimpse of dedicated fellow humans who work & follow their passion while sometimes putting their lives back home on standby.
    Surely you are missed by loved ones,yet these sacrifices are difficult, but are important for many!
    Thnx Kuipers for beatifull pic of aurora australis from ISS ! My brother who’s a radio amateur was in awe when I sent him the pic via e-mail. He’s a fan. Already communicated once with I believe Russian astronaute ,once few yrs back when he was alone out there…my brother told me how it’s very difficult to connect. He explained but I don’t recall the details. What I remember was sitting alone in front of all these equipement & listening. been warned by my brother Gino not to touch the dials & especially not to use the mic for he would lose his liscence.
    Well again bravo for your work,comments,pics&poems too!
    ESA-I enjoy all I read & learn from you’s all from my mobile! Wow imagine if I could from my pc. Still my droid serves me well all the same.
    Concordia- hello to the team out there in cold far away Antartica…not sure of your location exactly? Thnx to the two who set up camera for the wonderfull pic. & teardrop fellow “hello from cold country Canada” & thnx for that lovely poem by Blake.
    Warm wishes & hugs to you all.
    Great work! From <3 footprints 2gigi
    Oh…forgot the team at -Space is the Place -on fb (who linked in all of you's !) Glad for their shares & all the fun comments from people on your pics. I enjoy intersting & understandable explanations from your websites. Fastidious on my mobile but fascinating all the same…bye bye 😉

  • Mar'ya says:

    Thank you for a such a wonderful post. So very touching, powerful and inspirational. Indeed, we, people, are lucky creatures to live in our beautiful world:) Be well and safe out there, dear Author! Cheers, Concordia!

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