Time lapse: Sunshine over Earth

By Phil Plait | July 23, 2012 6:45 am

As they orbit the Earth from a height of 400 kilometers (240 miles), astronauts aboard the International Space Station take hundreds, thousands of photographs of the Earth below and the skies above. These images are online at a NASA archive called The Gateway of Astronaut Photography of the Earth. This archive is free and open to everyone, which means people so inclined can collect them, put them together, add music, and make incredible, moving, stunning, brain-expanding time-lapse videos… like this one from Knate Myers called View from the ISS at Night:

Incredibly lovely. The use of the music from the movie "Sunshine" was inspired.

There is a poetry in the motion of celestial objects, the perfect balance of forces that allows orbital mechanics to transform itself from equations on a page to artistry in the heavens. What science does is allow us to make that leap, to understand these interactions between gravity and velocity and combine them into grace and beauty. To a scientist, the equations themselves are beautiful – elegant, as we call them; simple yet profound, balanced, yet heavy with implication of how the Universe itself works.

This is why science is so powerful. It’s a tool with which we understand the Universe, and it works. For proof of that, you need only see a picture of Earth from space.

Related Posts:

This Is Our Planet
The softly glowing night sky
Astronaut opens up the window to see the Moon rise


Comments (8)

  1. Pete Jackson

    Just breathtaking, both audio-ally and visually! Thanks for posting it.

    Those high, red, aurorae at 1:00 and else-times make it clear that the ISS is still flying through the earth’s atmosphere, even at such a great height.

  2. Raymond

    Really beautiful, just a pity how bad light pollution is….

  3. I noticed one scene near the end of looking back on Moscow followed rapidly by Poland, Germany, and the English Channel. This means the ISS was orbiting WESTward over northern Europe. Did I miss something? I thought the ISS was launched Eastward (and assembled to its current completion) because it was much easier to service by craft launched eastward.

    I suspect the editor assembled the individual frames of its Northern European passage in reverse order for visual effect. Can anyone verify this?

  4. Wow, really really beautiful stuff.

    I’m so used to seeing old footage of the earth on tv that this looks almost TOO good to be real! Truly is awe-inspiring.

    Love the music – didn’t see the attribution at first and was trying to figure out just exactly where I knew it from!

  5. Pete Jackson

    @4LouisB: The Northern Europe sequence must have been assembled in reverse, since the ISS does move eastwards. Just after the Europe sequence, they show passage over the Great Lakes, this time moving east.

  6. Michael Sternberg

    Wow! I got perhaps a bit jaded lately by time lapse movies but this one is truly marvelous. It has poetry, and fitting music, lifting it to emotional impact.

    Seeing the earth float by under some parts of the station I was reminded of so many sci-fi movies, only to realize that this one is real.

    I liked in particular the shots of the aurorae, and the inspired camera twist around 3:00 in. Great!

  7. Wow! ūüėÄ

    Superluminously wonderfully marvelous. 8)

    Cheers. :-)

    The use of the music from the movie “Sunshine” was inspired.

    John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor) to be precise – credited at the end – 3 minutes and 45 seconds mark.


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