Just hours after this year’s winter solstice, the northern lights put on a stunning display over northern Canada.

The phenomenon was captured by a Nasa satellite in infrared, as the skies over the area lit up.

The northern lights, which appeared on December 22, appear in the image as glowing swirls of clouds.

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The northern lights, which appeared on December 22, appear in the image as glowing swirls of clouds
Nasa's Suomi NPP spacecraft captured the image of the northern lights over British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories in Canada

Just hours after this year’s winter solstice, the northern lights put on a stunning display over northern Canada. The phenomenon was captured by a Nasa satellite in infrared, as the skies over the area lit up

WHAT ARE AURORAS? 

There are two types of auroras – Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora Australis, ‘dawn of the south.’

The lights are created when charged particles from the sun enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Usually the particles are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field, but some enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles.

These collisions emit light, in many colours although pale green and pink are common. 

Nasa’s Suomi NPP spacecraft captured the image of the northern lights over British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories in Canada.

The satellite took the images from 512 miles (824 kilometres) above Earth’s surface, using a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).

In a statement on its website, Nasa said: ‘Just hours after the winter solstice, a mass of energetic particles from the Sun smashed into the magnetic field around Earth.

‘The strong solar wind stream stirred up a display of northern lights over northern Canada.’

When solar particles collide into our planet’s magnetic field, particles that are trapped around Earth are rapidly accelerated.

Those particles are sent crashing down into Earth’s upper atmosphere, at altitudes of 60 to 250 miles (100 to 400 kilometres), where they excite oxygen and nitrogen molecules and release photons of lights.

The results are the distinctive swirls of dancing light in the sky. 

In April this year, Nasa released an ultra-high definition 4K timelapse of the Auroras Borealis and Australis as seen from 250 miles above Earth

In April this year, Nasa released an ultra-high definition 4K timelapse of the Auroras Borealis and Australis as seen from 250 miles above Earth

In April this year, Nasa released an ultra-high definition 4K timelapse of the Auroras Borealis and Australis as seen from 250 miles above Earth.

‘Harmonic produced this show exclusively for Nasa TV UHD, using time-lapses shot from the International Space Station, showing both the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis,’ Nasa wrote. 

While the astronauts on the space station are often treated to spectacular light shows created by the aurora from their unique perspective, they are often on the Earth’s horizon.

While the astronauts on the space station are often treated to spectacular light shows created by the aurora from their unique perspective, they are often on the Earth's horizon

While the astronauts on the space station are often treated to spectacular light shows created by the aurora from their unique perspective, they are often on the Earth’s horizon

In February the green glow, caused by electrically charged particles thrown out by the sun interacting with the gas atoms in the atmosphere, right in the path of the space station

In February the green glow, caused by electrically charged particles thrown out by the sun interacting with the gas atoms in the atmosphere, right in the path of the space station

But in February the green glow, caused by electrically charged particles thrown out by the sun interacting with the gas atoms in the atmosphere, right in the path of the space station.

Major Tim Peake managed to capture the stunning moment as the space station passed through the green haze by taking a picture out of a window.

Posting the image on Twitter, he described the aurora as being like a ‘thick green fog’ which was ‘eerie but very beautiful’.

Major Tim Peake managed to capture the stunning moment as the space station passed through the green haze by taking a picture out of a window

Major Tim Peake managed to capture the stunning moment as the space station passed through the green haze by taking a picture out of a window

Aside from being beautiful to behold, studying the aurora from space could provide scientists with details about the behaviour of the sun.

Nasa said: ‘The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun.

‘Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections.’

 

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