Astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis captured these amazing photos last Thursday of the green Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights.  The photos were snapped as the crew passed west of Australia.

The green lights enveloping Earth are known as aurora, which is the collective name given to the photons (light) emitted by atoms, molecules and ions that have been excited by energetic charged particles (principally electrons) travelling along magnetic field lines into the Earth's upper atmosphere. Aurora results from the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field.

In the photos below, the Aurora Australis can be seen on Earth's horizon with a number of stars also visible: