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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
South Pole light show
Jonathan Berry/NSF
Curtains of light hover over the base

Striking images of the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, have been taken above the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Like its more familiar counterpart, the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, the southern version is caused by solar wind particles colliding with the Earth's upper atmosphere.

The particles from the Sun are electrically charged and are drawn towards the Earth's magnetic poles.

Jonathan Berry/NSF
The particles strike and excite atoms in the atmosphere, causing them to give off light in many colours. Often the patterns of light take on the form of moving curtains and rays.

The Aurora Australis is much less frequently observed because few people live in Antarctica during the austral winter.

Jonathan Berry, who is wintering at the South Pole station, took the photos against the backdrop of the months-long polar night.

Jonathan Berry/NSF
New buildings are being constructed
The base is operated by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF conducts a wide variety of research in Antarctica and is currently rebuilding and modernizing the station.

The images of the aurora and of the full Moon were taken over one wing of the new station and the existing geodesic dome at the South Pole.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
28 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
15 Feb 99 | Science/Nature
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