NASA Captures Northern Lights In New Stunning Photo

First Posted: Jan 03, 2017 03:00 AM EST

Nothing can surpass a more spectacular light show than nature itself as seen in the Northern Lights in Canada.

Fox News reported that NASA's Suomi NPP spacecraft captured the Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, across the auroral oval: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories on Dec. 22, the night after the winter solstice. Through the use of the day-night band (DIB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIRS), the stunning swirls of clouds 512 miles above the Earth were shown in a black and white photo.

According to NASA, the aurora borealis is a result of a strong solar wind stream stirring up from the Sun's energetic particles colliding with the Earth's magnetic field.

"The collision of solar particles and pressure into our planet's magnetosphere accelerates particles trapped in the space around Earth (such as in the radiation belts)," the space agency explained in its statement. "Those particles are sent crashing down into Earth's upper atmosphere-at altitudes of 100 to 400 kilometers (60 to 250 miles)-where they excite oxygen and nitrogen molecules and release photons of light. The results are rays, sheets, and curtains of dancing light in the sky."

As per previous studies, these oxygen molecules release green lights while nitrogen produces orange or red lights.

These energetic particles coming down from the Earth's magnetosphere to the gases of the upper atmosphere were detected by the DNB, which specializes in capturing dim light signals like auroras, gas flares, airglows and reflected moonlight.

Although these solar wind events often occur in Canada, the most spectacular solar storms apparently happen every 11 years, NASA researchers reported. The last cycle peaked back in 2013 despite the Sun's lowest record of solar maximum in a century.

The Northern Lights' next cycle peak will occur in 2024.

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