Such light shows occur when high-energy solar particles corralled by Earth’s magnetic field slam into atmospheric gas near the planet’s poles (in this case, somewhere over Antarctica).
At left is part of the space station’s solar arrays, and at center is space shuttle Atlantis’ robotic arm and inspection boom, which is backlit by the moon. One of Atlantis‘ wings, orbital maneuvering system pods and payload bay doors is seen at right.
The four-person crew of Atlantis recently piled in and closed the airlock between their spaceship and the space station in preparation for the last-ever shuttle undocking maneuver tomorrow at 2:28 a.m. EDT.
NASA expects the astronauts to return to Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, July 21 at 5:57 a.m. EDT.