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16 July 2011

Aurora Australis and Space Shuttle Atlantis

The shuttle Atlantis astronauts haven't had much time for sight-seeing, but what they lack in quantity they sure make up for in quality. Thursday night, some of the astronauts gathered in the space station's cupola -- a seven-sided, windowed nook offering eye-popping views of the universe. They lucked out as they passed west of Australia.

"We saw an incredible Southern Lights aurora," pilot Doug Hurley said during an inflight interview Friday. "It was the best one I've seen in my two spaceflights. It was just unbelievable the view out the cupola."

The next best thing to being there? Sharing some pictures. In the foreground is part of the shuttle's inspection boom, which is being held by the ship's robotic crane, and a section of Atlantis' wing to the right.

-- by Irene Klotz

Image credit: NASA