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Curated by RSF Research Staff

Aurora australis and the Milky Way

Magnetized plasma particles are often released from stormy sunspot regions on the sun's surface and travel into space as solar wind. After coming toward us in what is roughly a 40-hour journey, the particles meet Earth's upper atmosphere to create a magical display of southern lights. Most people in North America are more familiar with the term for this hemisphere's counterpart, the aurora borealis, than they are with the aurora australis. The stormy, smoldering birth of the solar wind might surprise admirers who are only familiar with the majestic, seemingly peaceful auroras that appears in the skies of each hemisphere.

Astrophotographer Hunter Davis captured two images of our galaxy's band of neighboring stars sharing the sky with the southern lights. They were taken in Antarctica, just over a relay station at the South Pole before the winter solstice, Davis said. The snow that blankets the base of the photos accentuates the brightness of the lights in the sky.

The grandeur of the aurora australis is highlighted further with the Milky Way visibly shining behind it. The galaxy has a diameter of 100,000 light-years, so one can only imagine the colorful variety of aurora shows that could be playing out on other worlds with the Milky Way backdrop.



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