This is the breathtaking view of the aurora, aka the Northern Lights, when viewed from the International Space Station. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli captured it on 15 September.

Tourists from all over the world travel to the Arctic to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary natural phenomenon – but no view from Earth can be as spectacular as this one from space.

"The sight filled the northern sky; the immensity of it was scarcely conceivable. As if from Heaven itself, great curtains of delicate light hung and trembled," novelist Phillip Pullman once wrote of the seemingly supernatural haze.

"Pale green and rose-pink, and as transparent as the most fragile fabric, and at the bottom edge a profound and fiery crimson like the fires of Hell, they swung and shimmered loosely with more grace than the most skillful dancer," he added.

Imagine what the wordsmith would have written if he had been smuggled onto the International Space Station. Or treated to a tour of the skies by the ESA or Nasa.

Nespoli was launched into space in late July. His Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft circled Earth four times to catch up with the International Space Station. Six hours later he was on board the satellite, where he will live and work until the end of the year.

The Italian last visited space six years ago. The Space Station has changed a lot since then. Modules have been relocated and systems have been upgraded. New commercial spacecraft are ferrying supplies and he will help grapple and dock the regular arrival of cargo ships with the station's robotic arm.

He also has a full schedule of science and experiments planned for his five-month mission. The opportunity to run experiments for a long period of time on the 17-year-old Space Station with state-of-the-art research facilities is what makes the laboratory so attractive for scientists on Earth – from investigating metals, plants and our planet, to understanding the secrets of our universe.

Nespoli's mission name is 'Vita', which stands for Vitality, Innovation, Technology and Ability. It is his third spaceflight and third visit to the Space Station.

Spectacular timelapse shows aurora and lightning from International Space Station
Spectacular timelapse shows aurora and lightning from International Space Station ESA/ NASA