The Aurora Australis is seen from the International Space Station.

Photo: André Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Aurora australis

This stunning view of the southern lights was taken by astronaut André Kuipers of the European Space Agency on March 11, as  the International Space Station (ISS) was orbiting above Earth between Australia and Antarctica.


There isn't a huge concentration of cities in the Southern Hemisphere latitudes that would allow for frequent viewing of the aurora australis, but the wispy colorful lights can sometimes be viewed in the very southern regions of New Zealand, South America and Australia.


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Richat Crater in Mauritania, as seen from space.

Photo: André Kuipers/ESA/NASA

The eye of the Sahara

The massive and mysterious Richat structure in Mauritania — sometimes called the Eye of Africa or the Earth's Bullseye — is seen in this stunning aerial image snapped by Kuipers from the ISS.


Scientists initially thought the Richat structure was an extraterrestrial impact crater, but the lack of any rock that appears to have been forcibly altered by an impact and the flatness of the dome's center considerably weakens this hypothesis. Scientists are still debating the origin of the structure, but many believe it is a former dome volcano that has been eroded by millions of years of Saharan desert winds.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Photos: A space traveler's view of aurora australis and Eye of Africa
ESA astronaut André Kuipers snapped these awe-inspiring images of the Aurora Australis and the mysterious Eye of Africa from the atmospheric heights of the Int