Yesterday, I posted a beautiful picture of the Orbiter Endeavour docked to the International Space Station. The shot was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli from about 200 meters away; he was inside a Soyuz capsule that had just disembarked. What I didn’t know last night is that NASA wanted a series of pictures of the Orbiter and ISS together, a legacy gallery to commemorate Endeavour’s last flight.
The ESA has just posted the gallery, and it’s truly wonderful.
You really need to take a stroll through those images. They are the last ones that will ever be taken of Endeavour docked to the space station it helped build. The one above is my favorite, but there are a couple of dozen others that give you a good idea of how huge and how complicated ISS is.
Not only that, but NASA just released video taken by Nespoli as well:
Endeavour landed safely on June 1, and Atlantis, the last Shuttle launch, will make its way skyward on July 8.
Credits: ESA, NASA
This is what it looks like when you’re looking out a Soyuz window, leaving the International Space Station with a Shuttle Orbiter docked to it:
This amazing image was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli as he was being taken back to Earth. The Soyuz was only about 200 meters from the station when he captured this shot. He’s taken some of my favorite pictures from the ISS (like this, this, and this), and I’ll miss his keen eye behind the lens.
But, I imagine, not as much as he’ll miss being there. I wonder when he’ll get another chance to go up to space?
Image credit: NASA
I love pictures of the Earth from space. They give us a great perspective on our little planet down here. And sometimes they are simply stunning for their own sake… like this shot of lightning internally illuminating a storm cloud over Brazil:
[Click to 1.21gigawattenate.]
That was taken by astronaut Paolo Nespoli in January 2011 as the Space Station passed overhead. Having lived in several storm-prone areas I’ve seen lightning flash in huge thunderclouds from below, from the side, and even once from above in an airplane (which was awesome and terrifying), but never like this. If it weren’t for the caption on that picture I’d have never guessed what it was. Amazing.
I have to laugh, though: given the language they speak in Brazil, isn’t it funny it looks like a Portuguese Man o’ war?
Image Credit: ESA/NASA
On Saturday, the Orbiter Discovery was in space, circling hundreds of kilometers above our planet. Here’s an interesting picture of it… but wait a sec! If it was in orbit, what could cast a shadow across it?
Why, it’s the International Space Station itself! This shot is from Paolo Nespoli, an astronaut on the ISS. He snapped it as the Orbiter approached the station — docking was achieved on Saturday afternoon Eastern time. [UPDATE: As people have noted in the comments below, that's the coastline of Peru under the Orbiter. Awesome.]
This is the last scheduled flight of Discovery. When she undocks from ISS next week, it will be for the final time. However, you can experience this flight at least by proxy through Nespoli, who has an astonishing series of pictures on Flickr that he uploads in near real-time from space (I like this one too).
Think about that: a guy living in space is taking hi-res digital pictures and uploading them to the web so everyone with internet access can see. You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.
[UPDATE: I have posted a seriously awesome followup picture of the ISS and Discovery taken by an amateur astronomer from the ground. Take a look!]
Image credit: NASA
Check. This. Out: Moonrise as seen by astronaut Paolo Nespoli on board the International Space Station!
Holy wow! Click to spacestationate.
That is so cool. As the ISS races around the Earth at 8 km/sec (5 miles/sec), it sees up to 18 sunrises and sunsets each day, and the same number of moonrises and moonsets. Paolo had to snap quickly to get this sequence, which couldn’t have taken more than a minute to elapse.
But what’s with the squished Moon? Here’s a closeup of the Moon in the three pictures:
What causes this? It’s an atmospheric effect, due to the air surrounding the Earth acting like a lens, bending (or, if you want to impress your friends, refracting) light. You’ve probably seen how a spoon looks bent when it sits in a glass of water, right? Same thing. Light passing from the vacuum of space through our air gets bent a bit. The amount of bending depends on how much air the light is going through; the thicker the air the more it’s bent.
When an astronaut on the ISS sees the Moon near the Earth’s limb, as in these shots, light from the top part of the Moon is passing through less air than the bottom. So the light from the bottom gets bent more, in this case, up. This makes it look as if the bottom of the Moon is being squished up into the top, like a clay ball that’s been dropped on the ground. As the ISS orbits the Earth, and the Moon gets higher off the limb, the effect diminishes so in the two subsequent shots the Moon gets re-inflated.
You’ve probably seen this yourself, though not as dramatically. The next time you have a clear horizon view to a sunset (like maybe on the west coast, as the Sun sinks below the waters of the Pacific) you’ll see exactly this same effect. The Sun will look squashed. I’ve actually posted about this a couple of years ago, when a similar picture of the Moon from the ISS was released. It wasn’t as dramatic as this one, though!
Paolo Nespoli has a Flickr page where he posts amazing pictures he’s taken from space. You could have a much worse Friday than clicking through some of those shots and seeing how lovely our world is when seen from above.
Image credit: ESA/NASA. Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Stuart at astronomyblog.