Astronauts in orbit on the ISS take some of the coolest pics of earth that I have ever seen. The latest picture to be shared from the International Space Station is this one of the famed Northern Lights, otherwise known as aurora borealis. This particular photo is showing a north to northeastward view, and it was shot as the space station flew over the Midwest on January 25. Thick clouds that can't be seen in these photos are making the identification of the bright cities you see difficult.
The aurora borealis has been particularly bright and widespread over the last few months and is an aftereffect of a massive solar eruption that spewed radiation towards Earth where it bounced off our atmosphere. This photo was taken roughly above south-central Nebraska. NASA astronauts aboard ISS are going to be snapping all the photos and video they can of aurora borealis as they orbit the earth.
The venture is part of an effort called AuroraMAX with the goal of sharing with people the beauty of the northern lights and the science that causes aurora borealis to form. The aurora results when charged particles from the sun collide with the atmosphere, resulting in the glow as the particles are funneled over the poles of the earth along magnetic lines. In the southern hemisphere, aurora borealis is called the Southern Lights.