See the Northern Lights… from space! Stunning video filmed by NASA astronaut shows a brilliant green aurora from 250 miles above Earth

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  • Clip shows green aurora over Earth with Boeing’s Starliner in the foreground 
  • READ MORE: Starliner could leave astronauts ‘stranded in space’ on the ISS

The aurora – a stunning natural light display – is mostly only viewed from Earth.

But lucky astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been gifted a unique view of the spectacle – with Earth in the background. 

Amazing video footage shows the brilliant green stream of wispy light covering thousands of miles across our planet. 

In the foreground is Boeing’s cone-shaped Starliner capsule, which was originally supposed to have returned to Earth by now. 

The clip was filmed by NASA’s Matthew Dominick aboard the ISS, which orbits Earth around 250 miles above sea level. 

Incredible: NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick shared his view of the aurora over Earth as seen from the International Space Station (ISS) with Boeing's Starliner in the foreground

Incredible: NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick shared his view of the aurora over Earth as seen from the International Space Station (ISS) with Boeing’s Starliner in the foreground 

What is aurora? 

Auroras are beautiful natural light displays that are seen after dusk, mostly in locations close to the north and south poles. 

Even though auroras are best seen at night, they are caused by energetic particles ejected from the sun. 

After travelling over 90 million miles, these particles interact with gases in our atmosphere resulting in beautiful displays of light in the sky. 

Oxygen gives off green and red light. Nitrogen glows blue and purple. 

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Dominick has been aboard the ISS since early March when he took a trip aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

Astronauts on the ISS have their own personal internet connection, meaning they can post on X, send emails and more. 

Taking to X to post the video and an image, Dominick said: ‘We have been looking at aurora out the cupola windows a lot lately.

‘Timing was great for the aurora to line up nicely with Starliner’s service module thrusters.’

An aurora is created by disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere due to a flow of particles from the sun and is usually centred around the Earth’s magnetic poles – which is why it’s known as the northern or southern lights. 

The charged particles are expelled from the sun at top speeds before interacting with Earth’s magnetic field.

Although in this video the aurora is green, its colour display depends in part on what molecules the charged particles interact with.

Red and green colours tend to be hallmarks of oxygen, pink and red the signs of nitrogen with blue and purple being the results of hydrogen and helium.

Although it’s unclear from the clip exactly where the ISS was at the time, we know ISS follows a circular path around our planet. 

This image shows one orbit of the ISS around Earth, which takes up to 93 minutes. On a 2D map, the orbit looks like a wave (but this is because it's a projection of a 3D path onto a 2D map)

This image shows one orbit of the ISS around Earth, which takes up to 93 minutes. On a 2D map, the orbit looks like a wave (but this is because it’s a projection of a 3D path onto a 2D map)

This image courtesy of Maxar Technologies taken on June 7, 2024 shows the Boeing Starliner spacecraft docked with the International Space Station's (ISS) forward port on the station's Harmony module. Because Starliner is docked with the ISS, astronauts can still enter and exit Starliner as they please

This image courtesy of Maxar Technologies taken on June 7, 2024 shows the Boeing Starliner spacecraft docked with the International Space Station’s (ISS) forward port on the station’s Harmony module. Because Starliner is docked with the ISS, astronauts can still enter and exit Starliner as they please

Crew aboard the ISS: In the front from left are, Suni Williams, Oleg Kononenko, and Butch Wilmore. Second row from left are, Alexander Grebenkin, Tracy C. Dyson, and Mike Barratt. In the back are, Nikolai Chub, Jeanette Epps, and Matthew Dominick

Crew aboard the ISS: In the front from left are, Suni Williams, Oleg Kononenko, and Butch Wilmore. Second row from left are, Alexander Grebenkin, Tracy C. Dyson, and Mike Barratt. In the back are, Nikolai Chub, Jeanette Epps, and Matthew Dominick

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EXCLUSIVE
How Boeing’s latest scandal could leave NASA astronauts ‘stranded in space’ on the ISS

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Also in the video, we can see Starliner’s small square window being dramatically illuminated with brilliant bursts of bright light.

These are flashlights being operated by fellow NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who took a trip to the ISS aboard Starliner on June 5 and arrived the following day. 

Wilmore and Williams were only supposed to stay at the ISS a week, but ongoing problems to Starliner means they can’t return home yet and have to stay longer than planned. 

Officials have discovered five different leaks in Starliner’s propulsion system which would navigate the craft through space as it returns to Earth.

NASA says Starliner will now return to Earth no earlier than Saturday, June 22 – more than a week later than originally planned. 

Underside view of the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2021, which maintains an orbit approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth

Underside view of the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2021, which maintains an orbit approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth

Starliner is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, April 16, 2024

Starliner is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, April 16, 2024 

‘The extra time allows the team to finalize departure planning and operations while the spacecraft remains cleared for crew emergency return scenarios within the flight rules,’ NASA and Boeing said in a statement. 

Boeing is one of three companies participating in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – an initiative to fly teams of astronauts to the ISS on behalf of the space agency. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, so far the most successful member of the program, performed its first crewed launch to the ISS back in May 2020, using its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

It has performed nine crewed launches in all – and will do several more after this as part of the program – while rival Boeing lags behind. 

Boeing’s first crewed launch was initially scheduled to occur in 2017, but various delays pushed the launch of the mission multiple times. 

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Crews have come mainly from the US and Russia, but the Japanese space agency JAXA and European space agency ESA have also sent astronauts. 

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.

So far 244 individuals from 19 countries have visited the station, and among them eight private citizens who spent up to $50 million for their visit.

There is an ongoing debate about the future of the station beyond 2025, when it is thought some of the original structure will reach ‘end of life’.

Russia, a major partner in the station, plans to launch its own orbital platform around then, with Axiom Space, a private firm, planning to send its own modules for purely commercial use to the station at the same time. 

NASA, ESA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station in orbit around the moon, and Russia and China are working on a similar project, that would also include a base on the surface.