Amazing Panorama of Western Europe at Night from Space Station

Western Europe at Night With hardware from the Earth-orbiting International Space Station appearing in the near foreground, a night time European panorama reveals city lights from Belgium and the Netherlands at bottom center. the British Isles partially obscured by solar array panels at left, the North Sea at left center, and Scandinavia at right center beneath the end effector of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2. This image was taken by the station crew on Jan. 22, 2012. Credit: NASA


An amazing panorama revealing Western Europe’s ‘Cities at Night’ with hardware from the stations robotic ‘hand’ and solar arrays in the foreground was captured by the crew in a beautiful new image showing millions of Earth’s inhabitants from the Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

The sweeping panoramic vista shows several Western European countries starting with the British Isles partially obscured by twin solar arrays at left, the North Sea at left center, Belgium and the Netherlands (Holland) at bottom center, and the Scandinavian land mass at right center by the hand, or end effector, of the Canadian-built ISS robotic arm known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) or Canadarm2.

European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers gazing at Earth from the Cupola dome of the ISS

Coincidentally European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers from Holland (photo at left) is currently aboard the ISS, soaring some 400 kilometers (250 miles) overhead.

The panoramic image was taken by the ISS residents on January 22, 2012.

The Expedition 30 crew of six men currently serving aboard the ISS (photo below) hail from the US, Russia and Holland.

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank is the commander of Expedition 30 and recently snapped awesome photos of Comet Lovejoy.

“Cities at Night” – Here’s a portion of a relevant ISS Blog post from NASA astronaut Don Pettit on Jan. 27, 2012:

“Cities at night are different from their drab daytime counterparts. They present a most spectacular display that rivals a Broadway marquee. And cities around the world are different. Some show blue-green, while others show yellow-orange. Some have rectangular grids, while others look like a fractal-snapshot from Mandelbrot space.”

“Patterns in the countryside are different in Europe, North America, and South America. In space, you can see political boundaries that show up only at night. As if a beacon for humanity, Las Vegas is truly the brightest spot on Earth. Cities at night may very well be the most beautiful unintentional consequence of human activity,” writes NASA astronaut Don Pettit currently residing aboard the ISS.

Comet Lovejoy on 22 Dec. 2011 from the International Space Station. Comet Lovejoy is visible near Earth’s horizon in this nighttime image photographed by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, onboard the International Space Station on Dec. 22, 2011. Credit: NASA/Dan Burbank
Expedition 30 Crew: Pictured on the front row are NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, commander; and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flight engineer. Pictured from the left (back row) are Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin; along with European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers and NASA astronaut Don Pettit, all flight engineers. Photo credit: NASA and International Space Station partners

Gallery: 10 Years of Canadarm2, Construction Crane in Space

Canadarm2, the huge robotic arm on the International Space Station holds astronaut Stephen Robinson during the STS-114 mission. Credit: NASA


On April 19, 2001, space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-100 mission launched to the space station, and in the payload bay was Canadarm2, a larger, more robust successor to the shuttle’s Canadarm. The Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) is a sophisticated “construction crane,” and is responsible for much of the successful building of the ISS — module by module — in space.

“She is without a doubt one of the most critical components on board station having participated in the construction of the spacecraft that is on orbit today,” said Mike Suffredini, Program Manager of the International Space Station. “Twenty-nine missions have been supported by Canadarm2, two of them capturing and berthing the HTV vehicle, and in all that time with absolutely flawless performance. Without her we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today.”

See a gallery of images of Canadarm2’s 10 years in the space construction business.

April 22, 2001 – History is made. Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield, attached to Canadarm, installs the next-generation Canadarm2 to the International Space Station during Shuttle Mission STS-100. Credit: NASA

Canadarm2 was installed on the ISS by astronaut Chris Hadfield during the first spacewalk by a Canadian. Canadarm2 has unloaded hundreds of tons of equipment and supplies ferried by the shuttle and assisted almost 100 spacewalks. Endeavour’s last flight later this month will mark Canadarm2’s 28th Shuttle mission.

July 15, 2001 – Canadarm2 performs its first official task, attaching the Quest Airlock to the Unity module of the International Space Station during Shuttle Mission STS-104. Credit: NASA

The Canadian Space Agency says that Canadarm2’s role on the ISS will expand as the orbital lab nears completion: in addition to performing routine maintenance, the robotic arm will make more frequent “cosmic catches,” where it will capture, dock and later release visiting spacecraft, as it has done with the HTV. When the space shuttle retires, reusable commercial spacecraft, like SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus, will be used to bring supplies and equipment to the ISS. Canadarm2 will capture each of these visiting vehicles. In late 2011 and early 2012, Canadarm2 will capture a series of 6 commercial spacecraft in just 7 months, beginning with the Dragon spacecraft, currently scheduled to arrive in October 2011.

How the ISS looked back in 2001, with Canadarm2 showing prominently. Credit: NASA
June 15, 2007 – Shuttle Mission STS-117 continued assembly operations that featured more work on the Station’s solar arrays. In this image, NASA astronaut Jim Reilly, attached to Canadarm2, and NASA colleague John “Danny” Olivas, are folding up an older solar panel so that it can be stowed and moved to another location on a future shuttle mission. Credit: NASA
November 3, 2007 – Canadarm2 played a big role in helping astronauts fix a torn solar array. The arm’s reach was extended by the Orbiter Boom Sensor System, and here, allowing astronaut Scott Parazynski analyses the solar panel while anchored to the boom. Credit: NASA
February 12, 2008 – Here, Canadarm2 has a firm grip on the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, which it grappled and attached to the station. Credit: NASA

More info on the SSRMS and how it was built:

The Expedition 27 crew on board the ISS pay tribute to 10 years of the SSRMS:

See more images and info at CSA’s website.