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The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
(NASA Crew Earth Observations)
Astronaut Photography of Earth - Display Record
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IdentificationMission: STS039 Roll: 342 Frame: 28 Mission ID on the Film or image: STS39
Country or Geographic Name: AURORA
Features: AUSTRALIS-RED/GREEN PROM
Center Point: Latitude: Longitude: (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Stereo: No (Yes indicates there is an adjacent picture of the same area)
ONC Map ID: JNC Map ID:
CameraCamera Tilt: High Oblique
Camera Focal Length: 35mm
Camera: NK: Nikon 35mm film camera
Film: 5030 : Kodak, natural color negative, Ektapress 5030, ASA 1600,standard base.
QualityFilm Exposure: Normal
Percentage of Cloud Cover: (0-10)
GMT Date: 1991____ (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: , Longitude: (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:
Sun Azimuth: (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: nautical miles (0 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
CaptionsRed and green colors predominate in this view of the Aurora Australis photographed from the Space Shuttle in May 1991 at the peak of the last geomagnetic maximum. The payload bay and tail of the Shuttle can be seen on the left hand side of the picture. Auroras are caused when high-energy electrons pour down from the Earth’s magnetosphere and collide with atoms. Red aurora occurs from 200 km to as high as 500 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 6300 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. Green aurora occurs from about 100 km to 250 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 5577 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. The light is emitted when the atoms return to their original unexcited state.
At times of peaks in solar activity, there are more geomagnetic storms and this increases the auroral activity viewed on Earth and by astronauts from orbit. Photographing them requires careful technique with long exposures and fast film (in this case ASA 1600). Such film can only be used on short-duration Shuttle flights and not from the Space Station because it is sensitive to radiation damage in orbit over time. The most recent astronaut photograph of aurora was taken before the April 2001 flurry of solar activity, and showed only a relatively low-energy green glow (see previous Earth Observatory posting).
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Recommended Citation: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." .