earthterminator_iss002_920This picture was taken from the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of 390 km. The terminator is the line between day and night. In pictures of  airless moons it’s a firm line, but no such sharp boundary marks the division between day and night in this picture of ocean and clouds on Earth. Instead, the shadow line is diffuse and shows the gradual transition to darkness as twilight falls. The Sun illuminates the scene from the right, and the cloud tops reflect gently reddened sunlight filtered through the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. The upper atmosphere scatters blue sunlight and fades into the blackness of space.

Image Credit: NASA

Stargazing From Orbit

ISS_StargazingAn astronaut aboard the International Space Station snapped this photo looking across the Pacific Ocean back in August, 2015. Some of the setting stars can be seen though the glow of the atmosphere.

The bright spot in the clouds on the right is a lightning flash, and its reflection can be seen in the solar array.

Image Credit: NASA

Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak

orion_arisingThose are the names of the stars in Orion’s belt, and they can be seen peeking through Earth’s atmosphere in this picture made from the International Space Station by astronaut Reid Wiseman. Orion’s sword, home to the great Orion Nebula, hangs above his belt in an orientation opposite to what those of us who live in the northern hemisphere are used to. Rigel, at the foot of Orion, is still higher above Orion’s belt. Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major, is to the right of center in the frame. That’s the station’s Destiny Laboratory module is in the foreground at the top right.

Image Credit: NASA

Aurora Borealis

northern_lights_iss_20131009Astronaut Mike Hopkins aboard the International Space Station made this picture of the northern lights on 9 October, 2013. The northern lights are caused by collisions between fast-moving electronsfrom space and the oxygen and nitrogen gas in our atmosphere. Those electrons originate in the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As they strike the atmosphere, the electrons transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules, exciting them. As each atom returns to its normal state, it releases a photon of light. BTW, Mike Hopkins says this picture doesn’t do the aurora justice.

Image Credit: NASA

A 51st Anniversary

51 years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human to see planet Earth from space. “The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly”.

The lights of Moscow, Russia, are near picture center and one of the International Space Station’s solar panel arrays is on the left. Aurora and the glare of sunlight lie along the horizon. Stars above the horizon include the compact Pleiades star cluster, immersed in the auroral glow. Click on the image for a better view.

Image Credit: NASA

Edoardo Arnaldi Arrives at the ISS

In the picture above the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 Edoardo Arnaldi (ATV-3) is seen on approach to the International Space Station for docking. The unmanned cargo spacecraft docked to the space station at 20:31 UTC on 28 March, 2012.

The ATV-3 delivered 220 pounds of oxygen, 628 pounds of water, 4.5 tons of propellant and nearly 2.5 tons of dry cargo. Among that cargo, the crew received experiment hardware, spare parts, food, and clothing.

Image Credit: NASA

The British Isles from Orbit

This view from the International Space Station looks northeastward toward the night lights of the cities of Ireland in the foreground and the United Kingdom in the back and to the right. Farther east, a bright sunrise glows on the horizon. The greens and purples of the Aurora Borealis can be seen to the north.

Image Credit: NASA

The East Coast At Night

This photograph of much of the Atlantic coast of the United States was taken from the International Space Station on 6 February, 2012. Large metropolitan areas and other easily recognizable sites from the Virginia/Maryland/D.C. area are visible in the image that spans almost to Rhode Island. Boston is just out of frame at right. Long Island and the New York City area are visible in the lower right quadrant. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are near the center. Parts of two Russian vehicles parked at the orbital outpost are seen in left foreground.

Image Credit: NASA

BTW, the town where I live (Westminster, MD) shows up very well in the picture.

Western Europe At Night

With bits of the International Space Station appearing in the foreground, this night time panorama shows city lights from Belgium and the Netherlands at bottom center, Great Britan partially obscured by solar array panels at left, the North Sea at left center, and Scandinavia at right center beneath the end effector of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2. This image was taken on 22 January, 2012.

Image Credit: NASA