A Night Flight Over the Mideast

The cities of the Middle East and southern Asia shine bright in the night beneath the International Space Station as it passed high overhead on October 21, 2011.

This video, an animation made from dozens of still images taken by the Expedition 29 crew, was assembled by the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center in Houston. It was uploaded to the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth site on October 27.


Some glare from the Moon (off screen to the upper left) can be seen in the Plexiglas of the ISS window. The strobe-like flashes are lightning in clouds. Airglow is also visible as a band of hazy green light surrounding the planet.

Another particularly noticeable feature visible in this video is the bright orange line of the border between India and Pakistan. Erected by the Indian government to prevent smuggling, nearly 1200 miles (1930 km) of floodlights and fences separate the two countries, creating a geopolitical feature easily visible from orbit.

The website’s description states:

The sequence of shots was taken October 21, 2011 from 19:53:26 to 20:25:24 GMT, on a pass beginning over Turkmenistan, east of the Caspian Sea to southeastern China, just northwest of Hong Kong. City lights show at the beginning of the video as the ISS travels southeastward towards the India-Pakistan borderline (click here for the Earth Observatory article to learn more about this area). Pakistan’s second largest city, Lahore, can be easily seen as the brightly lit area left of track. Immediately downtrack of Lahore is New Delhi, India’s capital city, with the Kathiawar Peninsula right of track dimly lit. Smaller cities in southern India can be seen as the pass continues southeastward through southern India, into the Bay of Bengal. Lightning storms are also present, represented by the flashing lights throughout the video. The pass ends over western Indonesia, looking left of track at the island of Sumatra.

I particularly like the way the stars shine so prominently beyond Earth’s limb, and how the moonlight illuminates the clouds… not to mention the bloom of dawn at the end. What an incredible sight this must be for the ISS crew members! I can’t imagine ever getting tired of seeing this outside the Station windows.

Watch more ISS videos here.

Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

2 Replies to “A Night Flight Over the Mideast”

  1. While the astronauts get a nice view of the stars and the illuminated cities below – not so the people in those cities living in the midst those blobs of light. The stars in their skies are washed out from rampant uncontrolled energy wasting light pollution emanating upwards into the sky.The pretty sight belies a ugly truth…

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