The European Space Agency (ESA) released this timelapse video this month (November 19, 2018) in celebration of the launch 20 years ago of the International Space Station (ISS). ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst acquired the images for the timelapse in October 2018. At just under 15 minutes, it’s the longest-yet continuous timelapse from space.
The video takes you from Tunisia across Beijing and through Australia in two trips around the world. You can follow the Station’s location on the map at the top right of the screen beside annotations on the photos themselves. Because the map is a two-dimensional representation of Earth’s globe, the ground track of the ISS appears to be wavy.
This timelapse comprises more than 21,000 images of Earth captured by Gerst from the ISS orbiting at its 250-mile (400-km) altitude about our world’s surface. The video is shown 12.5 times faster than actual speed.
At 18,000 miles (28,800 km) per hour, it only takes 90 minutes for the ISS to make a complete circuit of Earth, so the video shows the world passing from day to night and back again twice. The darker regions on the map shows where night is on Earth.
You can see numerous flashes of lightning during night time. That’s lightning from storms and is common on our planet. Also at night, look for stars rising above the horizon through the faint glow of the atmosphere still illuminated by the sun.
Here’s more from ESA:
As the Space Station flies into the night the solar wings rotate to get ready to capture the next rays of sunlight when the orbital outpost moves outside of the shadow of Earth. On the right is Japan’s cargo spacecraft HTV-7 that was docked with the International Space Station until November 7, 2018.
The white panels visible top left from 05:30 are the International Space Station’s radiators that pump ammonia to exchange heat and keep the facilities and astronauts inside at the right temperature.
At 06:55 the International Space Station flies over Europe starting with Portugal and Spain. Each new orbit of Earth sees the Space Station fly slightly more to the west than the orbit before.
Bottom line: The longest-yet timelapse from space, from ISS astronaut Alexander Gerst. Take two trips around the Earth in just under 15 minutes.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.