Top 16 Pictures from Space 2011

By Phil Plait | December 6, 2011 5:57 am


Comments (36)

  1. Eitheladar

    Surely we are looking _east_ in the picture of the Italian Boot, since Sicily is nearer to us?

  2. Old Rockin' Dave

    Thank you, Phil. I needed a moment of beauty this morning, and you gave me sixteen of them.
    Just wonderful.

  3. Carsten

    I am an astronomer and look at great such images often – but this was still a major treat! Thanks Phil!

    – Carsten

  4. Eithelader (1): Actually, that’s an illusion. When looking at this picture, imagine you are looking up at the Earth and not down, and you’ll see that the bottom left part of the picture is actually toward the limb of the Earth, farther away from you. It’s a weird illusion, due to this now being a wide field shot. It would be more obvious if you could see more of the Earth.

  5. Very nice picture looks like a still from the ISS timelapse video

    BTW you missed a 0 in the mph 17,000 not 17,00

  6. jpeg

    The “Two eclipses for the price of one” picture almost certainly shows the Death Star coming into position to destroy the Earth. There is even a Tie Fighter’s shadow on the sun.

  7. Simon

    The funny thing about Iceland is that it is called “Island” in Swedish (Is = ice, land = country). So, for me, Iceland is both an island in English, but also Island in Swedish! Luckilly, the pronunciation is different, the country is pronounced (roughly) “iis-laand” 😉 (Just wanted to contribute with some nerdy, unnecessary trivia to use next time someone mentions Iceland by the dinner table).

    Really cool pictures!

  8. Andrew

    Both the moon and ISS crossing the sun! Amazing. What a shot!

  9. Badstratotude

    Great choices. I couldn’t have put together a more appropriate group! Thanks.

  10. Krishna

    Phil, these pictures are great. Do you know what kind of cameras the astronauts use when they take pictures? (I am talking about those pictures you specifically mention have been taken by astronauts themselves and not by satellites). Thanks

  11. Zank

    Ok I see it now, the top portion of the image is closer to the camera than the bottom portion. It’s like looking up and backward while hanging upside down from the back of the ISS.

  12. Navneeth

    I find this year’s top space pictures too earth-bound.

  13. CR

    Re: the Italy/Sicily pic:
    I’ve always enjoyed pics of Earth from space (or other planets & natural satellites, for that matter) where the pic is oriented like the viewer is swooping around or under the planet, rather than over. It’s just more dramatic that way, since we humans are always so used to seeing the ground beneath our feet, and photo editors have a bias toward orienting space photos with the planet ‘down’ at the bottom of the frame. (The famous “Earthrise” Apollo sequence of the Earth rising above the limb of the moon was actually seen by the astronauts aboard with the moon to the side of the photo frames… nearly every book & magazine I’ve seen always has the moon at the bottom, but if you look closely, Earth’s continents show that such an orientation has Earth lying on its side.)

    By the way, is anyone else wondering if there will be another photo or two released yet before year’s end that’ll have Phil posting a supplemental entry? (I’m hoping he’ll post a ‘runners up’ list, too!)

  14. Chris

    You really should separate it into three categories. Top photos of space from earth, space from space and earth from space.

  15. Breathtaking! I haven’t seen most of these before, which is an extra bonus. And here’s hoping for many more “endeavors” going into space!

  16. Sameer

    Even after Phil’s explanation I was having a hard time imagining how the picture for Italy could have been taken from a point north-east of Italy (over Romania). I set the image to full-screen and sort of tilted my head leftwards and now I can see how this could be. The fainter lights on the bottom left corner of the picture is the coast of Tunisia I suppose?

  17. ptah

    Humorously, the name for the island Iceland in Icelandic, is Ísland.

  18. db26

    They are all remarkable really, but only #’sto 1,2,6,10,11,12,and 16 are worthy of this list.

  19. JT

    Great photos but how about some pictures of space?

  20. 18 Moon rises per day is a bit too many. That would be a period of 80 minutes! Actually the ISS orbits 15.59 times per day, and subtracting the Moon’s 0.03 orbits/day gives 15.56 Moon rises and and Moon sets per day.

  21. Ken Coenen

    That’s some gallery Phil! Can’t wait for the next edition.

  22. signaller222

    Is that a Tie fighter in the two eclipses image?

  23. Thanks BA – always love these top 10 (or more) photo posts. Great selection. :-)

  24. Don G.

    Hey Phil,

    Can’t imagine what you went through Phil to get the huge list of potential “Top 16 Pictures” candidates down to only 16! Guess you gave up on getting it down to 10, like in past years (lol). That must have been one long and tedious (hard to decide) process.

    I was particularly stunned to see the angle of re-entry for Atlantis, as I don’t recall ever seeing a graphic image for the re-entry of orbiting objects. WOW, that is one steep drop! I would pick this picture as #1 in the gallery, even though all the others are also awesome.

    This picture made me wonder if anyone on the ISS had ever captured a picture of a meteor entering Earth’s atmosphere — only to see that not only is the answer “yes”, but that you included one of them in your Top 16 gallery (smile). Thank you Phil! We live in a rural dark-sky area in Colorado and in years past my wife and I would spend time outside during each of the major meteor shower events, shivering in the cold but watching them in complete awe.

    Thank you for taking the time to compile, write captions and share these pictures with all of us, Phil. Really enjoy your Bad Astronomy blog. Keep up the good work!

    -Don G.

  25. Ben

    Although that is not “one of the best shuttle launch photos ever taken” it was also manipulated in Photoshop.

  26. That space station shot in front of the solar eclipse looks like Darth Vader’s fighter.

  27. Failblog stole your photo gallery. (click on my name to see it….)

  28. Viewing this page on my iPhone results in an infinite redirect loop between and

  29. Matt B.

    I thought the term “near-earth orbit” applied to asteroids, such as Cruithne. Isn’t the ISS in “low earth orbit”?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar