Clouds from space: Photo by ISS astronaut Oleg Artemyev.

Perspective on a Cloudy Day

Perspective on a Cloudy Day

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 5 2014 11:37 AM

Perspective on a Cloudy Day

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The other day, I posted a picture of the Earth from space, sunrise over a blue planet, saying, “Sometimes, you just need to be reminded that our planet is a beautiful place to be.”

Did I write “beautiful”? I meant magnificent.

clouds from space

Photo by Oleg Artemyez/Roscosmos

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That stunning portrait of our planet was taken by Russian astronaut Oleg Artemyev, who is currently on the International Space Station. Looking toward the horizon and using a telephoto lens, the perspective is compressed and you can see hundreds of kilometers of cloudscape in one go.

The depth of the image is incredibly compelling, both seeing the clouds shrink with distance as well as the feeling of height into the atmosphere. And to top it off—literally—the subtle play of blue air fading into the black of space forces you to see that this picture was not photographed anywhere near the comforting climes of home.

I’m currently wrestling with a large number of deadlines, tasks both minor and huge, and the next few weeks feel like an oily miasma enveloping me. But then I see something like this, and it’s a mental jolt, an almost electric change of state in my brain. My mind is filled with awe, and suddenly my own pressing needs have their edges softened, their jagged corners rounded.

Sometimes we need to take a step back (or up) and see the bigger picture. It may not cure the immediate ills we face, but it certainly helps put them in perspective.

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