Amateur astronomers have reported seeing an odd green glow across the sky over the United Kingdom, and its not the Northern Lights.
Airglow (also called nightglow) is a faint emission of light by a planetary atmosphere. In the case of Earth’s atmosphere, this optical phenomenon causes the night sky never to be completely dark, even after the effects of starlight and diffused sunlight from the far side are removed.
Airglow is caused by various processes in the upper atmosphere, such as the recombination of atoms which were photoionized by the sun during the day, luminescence caused by cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere, and chemiluminescence caused mainly by oxygen and nitrogen reacting with hydroxyl ions at heights of a few hundred kilometres. It is not noticeable during the daytime because of the scattered light from the sun.
Even at the best ground-based observatories, airglow limits the sensitivity of telescopes at visible wavelengths. Partly for this reason, space-based telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope can observe much fainter objects than current ground-based telescopes at visible wavelengths.
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