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faint diffuse illumination of the sky originating in the upper atmosphere. Although it occurs at all times of day throughout the upper atmosphere, it is most typically visible to an observer on earth on dark nights, above the horizon. The energy in the form of visible light is derived from the sun's ultraviolet light, which ionizes atoms and dissociates molecules at heights between 40 and 200 mi (64–322 km) above the earth's surface. When the fragments collide and recombine, some atoms and molecules are left with excess energy, which they release as light at characteristic wavelengths. Most prominent in the visible spectrum are the red and green light of oxygen and the yellow light of sodium. In southern and northern polar regions the airglow is often masked by the aurora (see aurora borealisaurora borealis
and aurora australis
, luminous display of various forms and colors seen in the night sky. The aurora borealis of the Northern Hemisphere is often called the northern lights, and the aurora australis of the Southern Hemisphere is known as the southern
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). Airglow hampers optical telescopic observations on earth by reducing the apparent contrast between stars and space.


(air -gloh) (nightglow) The faint everpresent glow arising in the Earth's atmosphere that is light emitted (along with infrared radiation) during the recombination of ionized atoms and molecules following collisions with high-energy particles and radiation, mainly from the Sun. Airglow interferes with optical and infrared observations of faint celestial bodies.



the luminescence of gases found in the upper atmosphere at altitudes above 70–80 kilometers; an important component of the luminescence of the night sky.

Airglow exhibits not only a continuous spectrum but also atomic emission lines of oxygen, hydrogen, and sodium and molecular bands of the hydroxyl radical, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ozone, water, and nitrogen oxides. The emission of the individual components of airglow occurs at various altitudes in strata of varying thickness. The altitude and thickness of the layers may change. One of the main energy sources for airglow is the energy of solar radiation, which causes dissociation and ionization in the upper atmosphere; the subsequent recombination of particles produces airglow.

The intensity of all the emissions depends on the degree to which the upper atmosphere is illuminated, on the density, temperature, and composition of the upper atmosphere at the altitudes where the emissions occur, on solar and geomagnetic activity, and on the latitude of the observation site. There are daily and seasonal cycles.

The mechanisms responsible for airglow have not yet been fully explained. Observations of the spectra of airglow and of variations in its intensity dependent on heliogeophysical conditions are widely used to obtain data on the composition, density, temperature, and other properties of the atmosphere at high altitudes.


Chamberlain, J. Fizika poliarnykh siianii i izlucheniia atmosfery. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)



The quasi-steady radiant emission from the upper atmosphere over middle and low latitudes, as distinguished from the sporadic emission of auroras which occur over high latitudes. Also known as light-of-the-night-sky; night-sky light; night-sky luminescence; permanent aurora.
References in periodicals archive ?
This is commonly seen in nightscape photos taken from dark sites, though airglow can sometimes be very noticeable even from rural locations.
In one corner of the Airglow building (currently being used as the Electronics lab) is a computer connected to a VLF (Very Low Frequency) antenna outside.
A thin yellow-brown band tracing the Earth's curvature at image top is airglow, a faint band of light emission that results from the interaction of atmospheric atoms and molecules with solar radiation at approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) altitude.
Among some fifty unadapted transfers from English found in the Devoto-Oli dictionary in the entries under A we find contemporary terms such as abstract, acid music, acting out, after hours, airbus, all inclusive, all right, anchor man, antidumping, antismog, anti-spam, appeasement, area manager, attachment, auditing, autofocus, as well as terms absent from the latest Zingarelli edition (Zingarelli 2009) such as access provider, add-on, adware, afro rock, airglow, american bar, anchor woman, anti-age, audiweb, avenue.
Las burbujas han sido objeto de estudio desde hace decadas, utilizando para ello una gran variedad de tecnicas de observacion, como el radar (Woodman and LaHoz, 1976), el analisis de ionogramas (Whalen, 1997), deteccion de airglow (Mendillo & Baumgardner, 1982; Pimenta et al.
6 to reduce airglow, which is still present even at La Palma where this image has been taken on a dark observatory site.
Airglow is an atmospheric phenomenon in which photons from the sun excite air molecules, which eventually emit light at several specific wavelengths.
Data retrieved from the rocket program provided new information about meteorology, atmospheric structure, ionosphere physics, aurora and airglow.
10 Kyodo A small rocket for observing the night sky's radiation, known as airglow, was launched from an Institute of Space and Astronautical Science facility in Uchinoura, Kagoshima Prefecture at 5:50 a.
Another burst seems to have been associated with, or emitted behind and beyond, an unseen galaxy whose spectrum was detected against the temporarily brighter background of a visible light airglow.
For instance, while several decades of data collected by the Fly's Eye experiments and a similar airglow study at the Akeno (Japan) Cosmic Ray Observatory suggest X-3 may emit [10.
Airglow can be produced by a variety of known sources, including cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere and chemical reactions.