A new day, from space

By Phil Plait | September 21, 2011 2:34 pm

Imagine sitting in a gossamer structure 100 meters long, 400 kilometers off the Earth’s surface, and hurtling through space at nearly 30,000 kilometers per hour.

Now imagine facing east while doing so, looking out the window, and seeing this:

ISS astronaut Ron Garan took this shot on Saturday morning, August 27, 2011, as the Sun rose over South America… of course, when you see the sunrise, it’s always morning, right? Not necessarily, especially when you outrace the rotating Earth and see 18 such sunrises and sunsets every day*.

Around the same time Ron took this shot, I was getting up to start my own day, and find out just what the Sun can do given a couple of hours to heat up the desert near Yuma, Arizona. Why? Well, without giving anything away, that’s a story that’ll have to wait for a few more sunrises in the future.

[Note: I’m still waiting for more news about the reinstatement of launches to the ISS now that the Soyuz flaw has been found. If there’s some metaphor to be had here with the picture above, feel free to consider it.]

Image credit: NASA

* <pedant>Actually, in the winter at extreme latitudes, the Sun doesn’t rise until afternoon, and may set shortly thereafter. But that’s if you’re stuck here on the surface of the planet.</pedant>

Related posts:

Moon over Afghanistan
Squishy moonrise seen from space!
What a falling star looks like… from space!
Crescent Moonset from space

MORE ABOUT: ISS, Ron Garan, sunrise

Comments (8)

Links to this Post

  1. Friday Finds – | Honk if you love justice! | September 23, 2011
  1. Good picture. :-)

    Hope there’s an unbroken run of International Space Station occupants who can keep seeing it.

    Question space sun-set/rise~wise : Can you still see the Green Flash effect in orbit?

    (Click on my name for Green flash wikipage – nothing to do with the superhero getting mouldy!)

  2. Chris
  3. Hugo Schmidt

    I’ve seen a sunrise like that once in my life, from the peak of Kilimanjaro

  4. JB of Brisbane

    And I thought a sunrise at 41,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean was breathtaking. Ron Garan certainly has one up on me.

  5. Robb

    {celestial navigation pedant} Local noon is defined as the time when the sun crosses your meridian, which is also the time when it’s highest in the sky. So seeing the sun rise means it’s local morning (before noon) no matter what your politically influenced watch says. That’s certainly true for any point on the surface of the Earth and for something in orbit, so long as it makes sense to talk about sunrise and sunset, the same thing holds. {/celestial navigation pedant}

  6. Chet Twarog

    Ah, folks, the Sun does NOT rise! The ISS is orbiting Planet Earth into dawn/dusk. It’s the ISS or Planet Earth rotating you [you are moving relative to Sun or Luna or stars/planets] into Sun sight and Sun clipse.{Thanks to Richard Buckminster Fuller}
    Again, it is an illusion that the Sun is rising, moving overhead, and setting–it is you or the ISS orbiting that is actually moving relative to the Sun/Luna/planets/stars… However, the ISS or aircraft or clouds rise above the horizon, move overhead, and set below the horizon.
    Just as much an error, are astronauts stating they are “gravity free” aboard the ISS. In fact, they and the ISS are in a “free fall” trajectory orbiting Earth–and they have mass.
    I know there will be a tendency to “brush me off” as eccentric but is it not a fact that Planet Earth is rotating on its axis and the ISS is orbiting Earth and the Sun/Luna/planets/stars are not orbiting a geocentric, immovable Earth? So why do you still think, speak, write, think it?

  7. Old Rockin' Dave

    Can you just see the tabloid headlines? “Astronaut Gets Photo of Strange Glowing Saucer. It’s just a “natural” phenomenon, says NASA”


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