Star Trails as Seen From Space

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Astronaut Don Pettit has just put another wow-factor in astrophotography from the International Space Station, and provided a whole new perspective on a common but eye-catching photography technique of creating star trails. He posted two images on his Google+ page, with this description: “Star trails. I leave the shutter open for a long period, and our orbital motion makes the stars streak.” Just gorgeous.

See his second stunning image below.

Star trails, with a module from the International Space Station showing up in black. Credit: Don Pettit/NASA

Dancing Water Drops In Earth Orbit

An astronaut once told me that fellow space flier Don Pettit could fix anything with a paper clip. Indeed, Pettit has nicknames like Mr. Wizard and Mr. Fixit, and he is well-known for his Saturday Morning Science videos during his first stay on the International Space Station and his “Zero G Coffee Cup” from a space shuttle mission he was on in 2008. Now in his second long-duration stint on the ISS, Pettit has a new video series called “Science off the Sphere” and the first video is above. Pettit uses “knittin” needles (watch the video to hear Pettit’s pronunciation) and water droplets to demonstrate physics in space, and shows what fun astronauts can have with water in zero-G with his ‘dancing’ water droplets.

This new video series is partnership between NASA and the American Physical Society. But there’s more than just videos, as at the end of each video Pettit poses a challenge question. Submit your answers at the Science Off the Sphere website for a chance to have your name read from space and receive a snazzy t-shirt from Earth.

Here’s this week’s Challenge Question:
Continue reading “Dancing Water Drops In Earth Orbit”

Amazing Panorama of Western Europe at Night from Space Station

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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

Time Lapse Video of Earth from Space

This time lapse footage was taken by astronaut Don Pettit — of Saturday Morning Science and the Zero-G coffee cup fame — during his time on the International Space Station. It shows Earth from day to night and back to day again. Pettit was on the ISS from November 23, 2002 to May 3, 2003, so he was in space when the Columbia accident happened. Pettit is one of the most interesting and quirkier astronauts and I hope he gets to return to the ISS. is scheduled to return to the ISS in 2011 (thanks to Ben H. for clarifying — see comments). This video provides some great views of Earth, especially at night, that can’t be captured with a regular video shot. Stunning.

via @wiredscience on Twitter