Aurora Australis PHOTO: Southern Lights Seen From Space

An astronaut on board the International Space Station has photographed a rare sight: the aurora australis (southern lights) as seen from space.

This image of the southern lights was captured aboard the International Space Station (ISS) at an altitude of 217 miles. Aurorae usually appear slightly lower--some 50 - 100 miles above the surface of the Earth.

While the phenomenon is usually visible closer to the North and South Poles, geomagnetic storms can push the auroras closer to the equator. NASA believes this particular storm to have been caused by a coronal mass ejection from the Sun on May 24.

In the image below, the mostly-green aurora is visible above a thick cloud cover. The bent blue band is the horizon of Earth's upper atmosphere. (Click here for the original image.)

The image below, which shows the aurora australis from the ground, was taken in 2005 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.