Astronomy Picture of the Day for January 3rd

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 3
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway
Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Voltmer 

Explanation: Higher than the highest building, higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth’s magnetic poles. The above wide angle image, horizontally compressed, captured an unexpected auroral display that stretched across the sky one month ago over eastern Norway.