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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: STS097 Roll: 354 Frame: 36 Mission ID on the Film or image: STS97
Country or Geographic Name: AURORA
Features: AURORA BOREALIS
Center Point: Latitude: Longitude: (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Stereo: (Yes indicates there is an adjacent picture of the same area)
ONC Map ID: JNC Map ID:
CameraCamera Tilt: High Oblique
Camera Focal Length: mm
Camera: NK: Nikon 35mm film camera
Film: FJ800 : Fuji color negative, 35mm, ASA 800.
Percentage of Cloud Cover: (0-10)
GMT Date: 20001211 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 000638 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 49.9, Longitude: -50.6 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:
Sun Azimuth: 288 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 190 nautical miles (352 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: -45 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 156
CaptionsAstronauts aboard the STS-97 Space Shuttle mission in December observed and photographed the northern lights after undocking from the International Space Station. This image was taken on December 11, 2000. At the time, the Shuttle was just east of Newfoundland at 49.7N 51.6 W, at an altitude of 362 km. The image view is to the north (Polaris, the North Star, is visible), and shows two separate atmospheric optical phenomena. The faint, thin greenish band stretching across and above the horizon is airglow; radiation emitted by the atmosphere from a layer about 30 km thick and about 100 km altitude. The predominant emission in airglow is the green 5577 Angstrom wavelength emission from oxygen atoms. Airglow is always and everywhere present in the atmosphere; it results from the recombination of molecules that have been broken apart by solar radiation during the day. But the phenomenon is so faint that it can only be seen at night by looking "edge on" at the emission layer, such as the view astronauts have in orbit. Astronaut Tom Jones gives a nice astronaut perspective of airglow on the web at
The other phenomenon in the photo (the green blob to the left of center) is the aurora. Green aurora occur from about 100 km to 250 km altitude only in the auroral zones at polar latitudes. They are also caused by the emission of 5577 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms that have been raised to a higher energy level (excited) by collisions with energetic electrons pouring down from the Earth's magnetosphere. The light is emitted when the atoms return to their original unexcited state.
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Recommended Citation: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." .