Thor's Flashbulb

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
April 2 2014 11:30 AM

Flash of Illumination

From space, the Earth is seen from above, literally taking on a new perspective that can make our home planet itself look like an alien world.

In 2011, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station took a photo that proves it.

storm seen from space
A Bolivian thunderstorm seen from above and far to the side. Click to encumulonimbusate.

Photo by NASA


That is a thunderstorm over Bolivia, seen at an oblique angle. It was nighttime there, and normally you’d only see the soft orange glow of city lights. However, at the moment the astronaut snapped the photo a lightning bolt tore through the cloud, illuminating it from within. It also lit up surrounding clouds as well as what looks like some water to the side (though it’s hard to be sure).

I remember when that picture was taken and being impressed with it, but for some reason I never put it up on the blog. I’ve fixed that oversight now. I love shots from space of Earth’s weather, from clouds casting long shadows to hurricanes casting a pall over entire countries. The images are beautiful, powerful, and a reminder that sometimes to see something so close and large, you need to back up a bit and take it all in from a different angle.

Tip o’ the space umbrella to NASA Earth Observatory on Twitter.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.