Time-Lapse Animation of the Earth From Space: Orbit

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Aug. 10 2014 8:00 AM

Time-Lapse: Orbit

ISS
Opening shot of the time-lapse animation, “Orbit.”

Photo by Selmesfilms/NASA, from the video

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a new time-lapse video of the Earth seen from the International Space Station, so how about this one from Selmesfilms called “Orbit”?

Lovely! Funny, too: Although there’s nothing really new here, the shots are just so damn gorgeous I don’t mind at all. I could watch stuff like this all day.

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There are a few things I want to point out in particular (of course!). Starting at 1:41 we fly along with the ISS as it goes over the Earth at night. City lights illuminate the ground, while flashing lights signal thunderstorms with intense lightning.

You can see the greenish-brown arc in that segment (and even better in the following one, starting at 1:52); that’s called airglow, an interesting phenomenon where the thin air about 95 kilometers up gets excited by sunlight during the day, and slowly releases that energy at night. You can see it on a lot of ISS shots of the limb of the Earth at night.

At 1:58 is one of my favorite shots ever taken from the ISS: The great comet Lovejoy, which graced our skies in late 2011. A bright comet, seen from space … if that’s not what I dreamed about as a kid reading science fiction, nothing is.

As an aside, the music in the video is from the Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, and it’s pretty cool. I’m a big soundtrack dork, and Zimmer is a master. It’s worth a listen.

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

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