Bad Astronomy

Flying around the Earth

If you’ve ever wondered what it must feel like to fly around the Earth at 28,000 kilometers per hour, then wonder no more.

[Make sure you set it to the highest resolution, then make it full screen. You’re welcome.]

I saw this on Universe Today, where you can get details, as well as in the YouTube link above. Created by James Drake, it’s a compilation of 600 publicly available images, strung together to make an incredible time lapse animation. The actual motion of the International Space Station would appear much slower than this, but still. The clarity, color, dynamism, and sheer jaw-dropping wonder of this is spectacular to behold.


A lot of people on Twitter were asking about the brown-green arc above the Earth. That’s an aerosol haze, a glow caused by particles suspended high above the planet’s surface. It’s an extremely thin layer, so it’s best seen edge-on, for the same reason some very thin shells in space are bright only around the edges. From the ground it’s too faint to see this clearly, and from space it’s only visible on the night side of Earth.

This is truly magnificent. And the ending is, I hope, a metaphor for the future of human exploration of space. Things may seem dark now, but I am still hopeful that a new day will dawn on our efforts to reach out into the Universe around us.

Related posts:

- Southern lights greet ISS and Atlantis
- A delicately violent celestial shell game
- A puzzling planet picture from the ISS