08/20/2014 02:51 EDT | Updated 10/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Beautiful aurora photos taken from space

An aurora that lit up the north last night was captured in spectacular photos from space.

NASA astronaut Reid Weisman snapped some shots from the International Space Station that have been shared thousands of times since they were posted online.

The beautiful red and green light shows were caused by a geomagnetic storm – a phenomenon that takes place when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth's magnetic field, exciting oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The lights, known as the aurora borealis of the Northern Hemisphere and the aurora australis of the Southern Hemisphere, are best seen near the poles of the Earth's magnetic field, located in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Tuesday's aurora was caused by a blast of particles called a coronal mass ejection launched by the sun that hit the Earth early Tuesday.

It's not the first time astronauts have posted stunning pictures of the aurora borealis. Canada's Chris Hadfield posted some viral aurora photos of his own when he was commander of the space station in 2013, and NASA has collected an entire gallery of aurora photos snapped by astronauts over the years.