Astronaut snaps amazing aurora over Earth as Atlantis preps return

The crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis has returned to the spacecraft and closed the hatch between the shuttle and the International Space Station for the last time. The view? Well, it couldn't be more beautiful, with the Aurora Australis sending Atlantis off with one hell of a light show.

After nearly eight days of being docked to the ISS (has it really been that long already since Atlantis went up?), NASA announced that this morning the four-astronaut crew parted ways with the Expedition 28 team aboard the ISS. Atlantis is scheduled to undock fully from the space station tomorrow, and return to Earth early Thursday morning.

That big shimmering green blanket is the aforementioned Aurora Australis with all of its excited particles and atoms popping off in the thermosphere, as seen from the ISS and captured using time-lapse photography. Also in the shot: a solar array in the top left, the robotic arm of Atlantis right there in the middle, and the shuttle itself off to the right.

See the image nice and big by clicking this link, courtesy of NASA.

NASA, via Wired

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