Check out this breathtaking view of southern lights (aurora australis) captured by NASA's flying telescope SOFIA

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 30-07-2022 09:55 IST | Created: 30-07-2022 09:55 IST
Check out this breathtaking view of southern lights (aurora australis) captured by NASA's flying telescope SOFIA
Image Credit & Copyright: Ian Griffin (Otago Museum)

This breathtaking view, captured by NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) telescope, shows aurora australis, also known as the southern lights. Astronomer Ian Griffin, director of New Zealand's Otago Museum, captured this view from the observatory's south-facing starboard side on July 17.

According to ESA, this stunning display of light is most visible near the North (Aurora Borealis) and South (Aurora Australis) Poles as charged particles streaming from the Sun (the solar wind) interact with Earth's magnetic field, resulting in collisions with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. The atoms are excited by these collisions, and typically emit photons as a means of returning to their original energy state. These photons form the aurora that we see.

In this image, the bright star Canopus is shining in the southern night above curtains of southern lights. The plane was flying far south of New Zealand at the time at roughly 62 degrees southern latitude when this view was captured.

The image was shared by NASA.

SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter (106-inch) reflecting telescope. Unlike space-based telescopes, it lands after each flight, so its instruments can be exchanged, serviced or upgraded to harness new technologies. The aircraft completed its five-year prime mission in 2019 and currently is completing a three-year mission extension.

In June 2022, SOFIA returned to Christchurch, New Zealand, to better observe celestial objects in the southern skies and had a successful and productive month of science flights. Unfortunately, the aircraft was damaged by a severe weather event on July 18, leading to the cancellation of the remainder of its final southern hemisphere deployment.

NASA said that the flying telescope will return to its usual base of operations in Palmdale, California, and resume science flights after repairs are complete.

Give Feedback