Lo Stivale d'Italia

By Phil Plait | September 1, 2012 7:00 am

My Italian is a little rusty, so I hope I got the title right. Either way, here’s what I was referring to:

Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s Italy, of course, seen on August 18, 2012, at night by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The ISS was well to the southeast, probably over Libya or Egypt in Africa, when the astronaut took this shot facing northwest. I poked around a bit, and the ISS was in this position twice on that date. Once was during the day, and the other around local midnight, so that fits.

It’s pretty neat to see Italy from space; I’ve posted an image like this before (though the ISS was much more overhead for that one). In this one you can see the arc of green airglow caused by oxygen atoms about 100 kilometers up giving up energy after getting whacked by ultraviolet light from the Sun. To the left and along the top you can see some of the ISS structures, too.

I’ll note that on Thursday, August 23, NASA announced that the private company SpaceX had been approved for a dozen cargo flights to and from ISS; this comes after their successful demo mission in May. The first of these flights is scheduled for October 2012. Not only that, but the aerospace company XCOR will be opening a new facility in Florida, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. XCOR is building a reusable suborbital spaceplane called Lynx, and expects to phase into orbital work eventually.

It’s exciting to see private industry getting involved! And it shows that, when it comes to space travel, America is still looking up.

Image credit: NASA. Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Fragile Oasis.

Related Posts:

Buonanotte, Italia
The softly glowing night sky
Turns out, it *is* a river in Egypt
Debating space

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (28)

Links to this Post

  1. Italy from Space | A Few Reasonable Words | September 4, 2012
  1. quite good, your italian ūüėõ
    it’s “Lo stivale d’Italia”
    anyway, great picture!!
    every time i see the ISS passing above my head in northern Italy i stop and think “there are 6 men living inside that football field sized thing orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes or so”
    is amazing!

  2. Elio

    it should be “Lo stivale d’Italia”…

  3. Thopter

    So what are those two green streaks? Reflections off of some antennae? They’re the same colour as the airglow.

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Bellissimo! Viva d’italia et bonjourno! :-)

    (Pardon my French Italian.)

    ‘Bout the only Italian I (sorta) know – although “Mira” I beleive means “wonderful” & stella = star although that may just be Latin which like French* (& Spanish) is closely related or so I gather.

    Great photo whatever the language anyhow.


    @ 2. Thopter asked : “So what are those two green streaks? Reflections? They‚Äôre the same colour as the airglow.”

    Not sure. Latitude is certainly a bit low for them to be aurorae & maybe passing satellites is plausible? Streak effect would seem to maybe rule out just being airglow, too large and high for aircraft surely, but, yeah, I don’t really know. Green = ionised Oxygen quite often. Meteor trails perhaps?


    * Which I learnt for a few years in high school .. & am no doubt extremely rusty with now.

  5. Nice to see my country. The only problem you see from space is … light pollution :(

  6. Daniel J. Andrews

    Beautiful, but that isn’t my first reaction. It is that sinking feeling that comes first. Occupational hazard (biologist, ecologist).

  7. Greg

    In the center of that image is Vatican City, the home of a religion whose members were once executing people for believing that the earth is round.

  8. Darwin's Chihuahua

    Just a little bit of Africa invading Europe. And no Hannibal in sight…

  9. Andrea

    It’s “Lo stivale d’Italia” :-) Anyway great article and image

  10. Greg is a troll. Why not abuse every opportunity to drag (anti-)religion into the conversation?

  11. MadScientist

    It shows quite clearly why they love their ‘Calcio’ so much.

    @Messier#3: Surely you know more! Spaghetti, maccheroni, linguine, prosciutto, risotto al nero di seppia …

  12. DanM

    …prosecco, chianti, montepulciano, brunello, montalcino, amarone, oh my now I’m thirsty. In Vino Italiano Veritas.

  13. .billyBoh

    Very nice picture! Seen from space, it looks such a nice country, instead of the little messed up one it really is.
    And yep, it should be “Lo stivale” but I am quite impressed you could avoid the trap of our double (meaningless) determinative article and pick out the (almost) right one.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing this pic on your blog!
    A silly Italian young man.

  14. Methinks you complain too much, Dotan. Greg makes a valid point (that works on multiple levels) about an anti-scientific organization that promotes ignorance. You should have no problem with that. Being anti-religion is equivalent to being anti-ignorance.

    And that is probably the doubly ionized Oxygen (O III) of a weak aurora you’re seeing, Thopter. Seeing it edge-on like this makes it brighter than you could see from the ground.

  15. gupino

    A little bit of bad astronomy here.
    In this shot, the ISS was not located southeast of Italy, but rather southwest, or more precisely SSW of Italy. And the camera was pointing to the northeast, or again more precisely, in the NNE direction. I understand, Astronomer, if you look up all the time, you get the picture the back of your head would see, confused. :-) :-)

  16. gupino

    A little bit of bad astronomy here.
    In this shot, the ISS was not located southeast of Italy, but rather southwest, or more precisely SSW of Italy. And the camera was pointing to the northeast, or again more precisely, in the NNE direction. I understand, Astronomer, if you look up all the time, you get the picture the back of your head would see, confused. :-) :-)

  17. JB of Brisbane

    I assume Greg (#6) is referring to some event other than the persecution of Galileo for promoting the Copernican view. Galileo may well have been put to death had he not recanted (to his inquisitors, at least), but the issue was the earth at the centre of the universe or not, not that the earth was round or flat. But I get Greg’s intent.

  18. Francesco

    That night I were in Milan, just came back from Toscana and preparing to leave for Capri.. The correct typing for the title is “Lo stivale d’Italia”.. Nice to be photographed from space :-) considering the small size of our country, cheers!! Ciao Ciao

  19. Diederick

    Looks like someone built a great wall in Tunisia. Or is that Spain?

  20. Arneb

    Hi Greg and Richard Drumm,
    who, specifically, was ever prosecuted by the Catholic Church for saying that the Earth is round?

    You know, if you so are anti-ignorance, you should enlighten us to the specifics of this.

  21. GoCanucks!!!

    Well, it ain’t North Korea!

  22. Kevin

    Arneb, anybody living in Seville (nice tie-in, huh?) in the first three decades of the seventh century? I can’t remember any of their names or favorite colors; it’s been a while. But I suppose, being the anti-ignorance crusader amongst us mere mortals, you already know this.

  23. Inamidato

    You can clearly see how much light pollution there is in Italy. Unfortunately there is not much to see in the sky by naked eye or telescope.

  24. Andrea

    Yes, you got it right, bravo! A beautiful picture, it makes me think we couls save some electric power here and there.

  25. RAF

    August 18th? My wedding anniversary.


  26. Matt B.

    I figured “stivale” was probably correct, because the German is “Stiefel”, which also happens to be a cognate of English “steeple”.


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