Aurora from the ISS

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The solar wind, a rarefied stream of hot plasma ejected from the sun, constantly bombards Earth’s magnetic field. This results in the formation of the magnetosphere, which deflects most of these charged particles away from the earth. Some of them, however, are drawn toward the magnetic poles; when these charged particles strike the upper atmosphere, they cause the gases there to release photons, resulting in the lights we know as auroras. This animation shows the International Space Station flying through the aurora australis–the southern lights. The fluid-like motion of the aurora is no accident; though diffuse, the solar wind is still a fluid governed by magnetohydrodynamics.

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