Image: Taurid meteor captured against Northern lights

January 6, 2016
Credit: N. Melville CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

ESA organises regular rocket launches together with the Swedish Space Corporation from northern Sweden in Esrange, Kiruna. The 13th Maser campaign saw experiments being carried 270 km up for six minutes of weightlessness.

Experiments in the November flight included looking at how gravity-sensing genes behave in plants, growing metallic crystals and X-raying them as they solidify, and observing with lasers – all in microgravity.

The 145 km north of the Arctic Circle offers amazing views of the Northern lights. Auroras occur when particle radiation from the Sun is channelled by Earth's magnetic field into the polar regions and hits Earth's upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish-blue light.

ESA payload system engineer Neil Melville took this picture between preparing the experiments and the launch.

Neil explains: "Sounding rockets offer a unique way for researchers around Europe to experiment in weightlessness, complementing ESA's range of microgravity facilities, from drop towers and aircraft flights to the International Space Station.

"The Esrange facility and surroundings offer many wonderful views. I was taking photos for a timelapse video of the aurora and by complete chance a very bright meteor from the Taurid shower was caught in this frame. It left a very rare 'persistent train', meaning that the trail of ionised air was visible for several minutes."

The tower with red lights on the horizon is part of Esrange's meteorology station that monitors the weather for launches.

Explore further: Engineers complete experiment onboard ESA sounding rocket

Related Stories

Engineers complete experiment onboard ESA sounding rocket

December 14, 2015

An experiment investigating how metals change from liquid to solid in microgravity has successfully taken place onboard a European Space Agency (ESA) sounding rocket. University College Dublin researchers designed the furnace ...

Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

September 17, 2014

Auroras occur when particle radiation from the Sun hits Earth's upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish blue light. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has one of our planet's best views of this phenomenon, circling 400 ...

High ride with Maxus-8

March 29, 2010

( -- ESA's Maxus-8 sounding rocket was launched last week from Kiruna in northern Sweden carrying four microgravity research modules on a hectic 12-minute space voyage. The ultimate results may include improved ...

Blood science on the ISS

May 19, 2014

Four years of training, a hair-raising launch strapped to 274 tonnes of rocket propellants, docking two spacecraft travelling at 28 800 km/h and living in one of the most inhospitable environments known. Space agencies would ...

Recommended for you

Dutch astronomers discover recipe to make cosmic glycerol

June 23, 2017

A team of laboratory astrophysicists from Leiden University (the Netherlands) managed to make glycerol under conditions comparable to those in dark interstellar clouds. They allowed carbon monoxide ice to react with hydrogen ...

Scientists uncover origins of the Sun's swirling spicules

June 22, 2017

At any given moment, as many as 10 million wild jets of solar material burst from the sun's surface. They erupt as fast as 60 miles per second, and can reach lengths of 6,000 miles before collapsing. These are spicules, and ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.