Around the time of Earth Day (April 22) this year, International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan posted several pictures he took of the Earth from space. They are all remarkable, but one in particular caught my eye:
[Click to embiggen.]
Isn’t that awesome? You can see city lights on the ground, part of a solar panel structure on the left, and even the Belt and dagger of Orion as the constellation’s stars set over the western horizon. It’s kinda neat to see objects a few meters away, a few hundred kilometers away, and few quadrillion kilometers away all in the same shot!
When Ron tweeted the link to this picture, though, he only gave a time and date he took it — April 21 at 20:34 GMT — but not what he saw, nor the position of the ISS over the Earth. I was curious: what city lights are those?
And, as it turns out, sometimes simple questions lead to complex, tortuous answers.
The immediate answer is, I’m not sure. Maybe someone out there in blogland can help me! But let me tell you the tale first.