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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Time-Lapse: The Earth from Orbit

By Phil Plait

Stop whatever youâre doing (unless youâre performing brain surgery) and watch this astonishing and enthralling time-lapse video, showing the Earth from space using photographs taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station:

You know the drill: Make it hi-res and full-screen, and thank me later.

The video was created by David Peterson, who also made a similar video called âAll Alone at Nightâ. Some of the clips Iâve seen before, but many are new to me.

At the 29 second mark, I was thrilled to see a glory, a complicated optical phenomenon where light is reflected back from water droplets in the air, creating a circular rainbow beneath the observer. You can see it tracking along with the station as it orbits above the clouds.

At 1:00 in, you see the Sun dip between the stationâs solar panels; I believe this sequence was shot in 2012 at the summer solstice. At that time, the Sun never sets for the ISS; it just dips down near the limb of the Earth and rises back up, much as it does at the Earthâs north pole.

At about 1:30, you can see two docked Russian spacecraft (a Soyuz in the foreground and a Progress in the back) with the Earth behind them. To my surprise, you can see the Progress firing its rockets twice, once on each side! The Progress rockets are sometimes used to maintain the ISS attitude (orientation to the Earth) and I had never seen video of them firing before.

At 2:00, Peterson put in a remarkable series of shots showing C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), a spectacular Sun-grazing comet that sported an extremely long tail. Discovered in 2011, it was very photogenic, and astronauts on the ISS took many photos of it.

He ends the video with a series of moonrise shots, which I never tire of. You can also see astronaut Don Petit working in the cupola; he was a pioneer of taking beautiful photographs from the station, and is a fitting way to end the video.

Tip o' the spacesuit visor to astronaut Ron Garan on Twitter.

[P.S. The music for the video is from the production company âTwo Steps From Hellâ, which makes music for movie trailers; youâve probably heard their work many times without even knowing it. I quite enjoy their music, and really like the albums âInvincibleâ and âArchangelâ in particular.]

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