An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured an aurora that spanned thousands of kilometers over Quebec, Canada, and a conspicuous circle of ice in the Manicouagan impact crater.
The aurora borealis (northern lights) glows when charged particles from the magnetosphere (the magnetic space around Earth) are accelerated by storms from the sun and collide with atoms in the atmosphere. Green and red colors are caused by the release of photons by oxygen atoms. The fainter arc of light that parallels the horizon is known as airglow, another manifestation of the interaction of the Earth’s atmosphere with radiation from the sun.
The Manicouagan crater was formed by an asteroid collision roughly 214 million years ago, creating a crater about 100 kilometers (60 miles) across. The shock wave and air blast, which would’ve exceeded 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) per hour, would have severely damaged and killed plants and animals out to distances of approximately 560 kilometers (350 miles). After erosion by glaciers and other processes over millions of years, the Manicouagan crater is now about 60 kilometers (37 miles) wide.
City lights also reveal small human settlements such as Labrador City and the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Goose Bay on the Labrador Sea.