An eerie, marmalade-colored light show made Earth look like a gigantic orange lollipop, prompting an astronaut aboard the International Space Station to snap a photo of it on Oct. 7. And yesterday, NASA shared the glorious shot with Earthlings down below.
The enveloping orange hue is known as airglow — a mesmerizing luminescence caused by chemical reactions high in Earth’s atmosphere, NASA reported. This ghostly glow usually happens when ultraviolet radiation from sunlight energizes molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, sodium and ozone in the atmosphere. These energized molecules then bump into each other and lose energy as they collide, resulting in a faint but spectacular afterglow, NASA said.
Airglow is best seen at night, as it’s 1 billion times fainter than sunlight, NASA said. This particular photo was taken at an altitude of more than 250 miles (about 400 kilometers) above Australia.