Those lucky enough to have gone to space have come back with a changed perspective and reverence for the planet Earth. Unlike the time of the first space explorers, we now have video and still cameras streaming back images from space, and we can get an inkling of what Earth must look like up there from orbit . The International Space Station orbits the Earth, completing one trip around the globe every 92 minutes. Cruising along at 27,700 km (17,200 miles) per hour, the astronauts experience 15 or 16 sunrises and -sets every day. This sequence of time-lapse photographs reveals the views from roughly half an orbit of the International Space Station, beginning with sunrise over Northern Europe to sunset southeast of Australia, on April 12, 2010. Visible is the visiting space shuttle Discovery, during the STS-131 mission.
The animation continues as the Station flies by Ukraine, eastern Russia, the Volga River, and then the Russian Steppes. South and east of the steppes, a dust storm comes into view over the Taklimakan Desert, followed shortly by the lake-studded Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains (center photograph). Smoke-shrouded lowlands hug the southern margin of the Himalaya. Smoke also covers much of Southeast Asia, including the Irrawaddy Delta.
After the Space Station passes over the sapphire-blue South China Sea, the island of Borneo appears, followed by the open expanse of the Indian Ocean. A trio of coral reefs lies off the coast of Western Australia, which is studded with clouds. Australia’s arid interior is colored myriad shades of red (bottom photograph). As sunset nears, cloud shadows lengthen, highlighting their structure. Night falls as the Space Station crosses the terminator above the South Pacific.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory