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An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) snapped a strange photo of a land From space containing two strange blue points of light shining in the atmosphere of our planet. A dazzling pair may seem strange. But it is actually the result of two unrelated natural phenomena that just happened at the same time.
The photo was taken last year by an unnamed member of Expedition 66’s crew as the International Space Station passed over the South China Sea. The photo was posted online on October 9 by NASA Earth Observatory (Opens in a new tab).
The first point of light, which can be seen in the lower part of the image, is a massive lightning strike somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s usually hard to see lightning strikes from the International Space Station, because it’s usually covered in clouds. But this particular strike occurred next to a large circular gap in the upper part of the clouds, causing lightning to illuminate the surrounding walls of a cloudy caldera-like structure, creating an astonishing luminous ring.
Related: ‘Blue jet’ lightning detected from the International Space Station
The second blue dot, which can be seen at the top right of the image, is caused by twisted light from the moon. The satellite’s natural orientation relative to the International Space Station means that the light it reflects back from the Sun passes directly through the planet’s atmosphere, turning it into a bright blue dot with a mysterious halo. This effect is caused by some moonlight being scattered from tiny particles in Earth’s atmosphere, according to the Earth Observatory.
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different colors of visible light They have different wavelengths, which affects their interaction with atmospheric particles. Blue light has the shortest wavelength and is therefore the most likely to scatter, causing the moon to turn blue in this image. The same effect also explains why the sky appears blue during the day: because the blue wavelengths of sunlight scatter a lot and become more visible to the human eye, according to NASA (Opens in a new tab).
Also shown in the photo is a glowing network of artificial lights from Thailand. Other Notable Sources of light pollution In the image they emit from Vietnam and Hainan Island, the southernmost point of China, although these light sources are largely obscured by clouds. The orange halo parallel to Earth’s curvature is the edge of the atmosphere, which is known as the “Earth’s tip” when viewed from space, according to the Earth Observatory.
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