Spectacular Earth Timelapse Video: Christmas Gift from Alexander Gerst’s 2014 ISS Voyage

Video Caption: Watch the Earth roll by through the perspective of German astronaut Alexander Gerst in this 4K six-minute timelapse video of images taken from on board the International Space Station (ISS) during 2014. Credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from Germany who recently returned from a six month voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) has a special Christmas gift for all – a stunning six-minute timelapse compilation of his favorite images of Earth taken during his “Blue Dot” mission in 2014.

“A 4K timelapse showing our planet in motion, from my favourite Earth images taken during the Blue Dot mission,” wrote Gerst in connection with his spectacular timelapse video released to coincide with Christmastime.

“I wish all of you a merry Christmas! It was a wild year for me, thanks for joining me on this fascinating journey!” said Gerst in English.

“Wünsche euch allen fröhliche Weihnachten! War ein wildes Jahr für mich, vielen Dank, dass ihr mit dabei wart!” said Gerst in German.

You can watch the Earth roll by through Gerst’s perspective in this six-minute timelapse video combining over 12,500 images taken during his six-month mission aboard the ISS that shows the best our beautiful planet has to offer.

“Marvel at the auroras, sunrises, clouds, stars, oceans, the Milky Way, the International Space Station, lightning, cities at night, spacecraft and the thin band of atmosphere that protects us from space,” according to the video’s description.

Gerst would often would set cameras to automatically take pictures at regular intervals while doing his science research or preparing for the docking of other spacecraft at the ISS in order to get the timelapse effect shown in the video.

“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri's 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri’s 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst

The robotic arm capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and the release of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo freighter are particularly magnificent in a rarely seen timelapse glimpse of visiting vehicles that are absolutely essential to keeping the station afloat, stocked, and humming with research activities.

Gerst served aboard the ISS between May and November this year as a member of the Expedition 40 and 41 crews.

Gerst launched to the ISS on his rookie space flight on May 28, 2014, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13M capsule along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

They joined the three station flyers already aboard – cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov & Oleg Artemyev, and astronaut Steve Swanson – to restore the station crew complement to six.

Gerst and Wiseman became well known and regarded for their prolific and expertly crafted photography skills.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe.  Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev, and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

They returned to Earth safely on Nov. 10, 2014, with a soft landing on the Kazakh steppes.

Alex is Germany’s third astronaut to visit the ISS. He conducted a spacewalk with Wiseman on Oct. 7 while aboard. He is trained as a geophysicist and a volcanologist.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit.  Credit: NASA/ESA
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit. Credit: NASA/ESA

Read my story detailing Christmas 2014 festivities with the new crews at the ISS – here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Incredible Snow-Dragging Spaceship Landing From The Space Station

Check out that landing mark! A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three people touched down safely in remote Kazakhstan late Sunday (EDT) and went for a brief sleigh ride in the snow, as you can see from the drag marks on the landscape.

The flawless landing included the Expedition 40/41 crew members of Reid Wiseman (NASA), Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency) and Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos), who spent 165 days in space, mainly living on the International Space Station. Check out some more landing pictures and video below.

Alexander Gerst, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, does a fist pump shortly after the safe Expedition 41 landing Nov. 9, 2014. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014
Alexander Gerst, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, does a fist pump shortly after the safe Expedition 41 landing Nov. 9, 2014. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

Giant Water Bubble Engulfs Video Camera On Space Station, With Hilarious Results

What does the view look like from inside a water bubble? Earlier this year, astronauts on the International Space Station completely submersed a GoPro video recorder inside liquid and filmed the view — which is quite amusing.

Look below for some distorted views of then-Expedition 40 astronauts Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst … and an awesome 3-D video besides!

NASA’s goal in tasking the astronauts with this is to better understand how water behaves in space. (It’s actually quite a serious matter, as a lack of understanding of the physics was one factor leading to a dangerous water leak during a spacewalk in 2013.) In this case, the astronauts were looking at how surface tension works in microgravity.

As for that 3-D video, the agency says it is going to offer more of these from space as it gets people even closer to actually being there. Here’s a neat phenomenon: typically the higher radiation levels in space damage video cameras to the extent where they need to be replaced every 8-12 months.

A 3-D camera sent up in 2011, however, had virtually no dead pixels in the images, prompting NASA to investigate. Officials requested the camera come back to Earth on a Dragon splashdown in 2012. That’s when they discovered the way the 3-D camera is structured — with stereo images layered on top of each other — lessens the appearance of any damage.

But there’s also less damage in the first place, NASA said, because the 3-D camera doesn’t use charge-coupled imaging sensors that are susceptible to radiation. The newer system uses a metal-oxide semiconductor sensor, which doesn’t get hurt as badly. We guess that’s more argument for bringing 3-D images from the final frontier.

Source: NASA

Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson (left) and Reid Wiseman view a water bubble surrounding a video camera on the International Space Station in summer 2014. Credit: NASA/YouTube (screenshot)
Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson (left) and Reid Wiseman view a water bubble surrounding a video camera on the International Space Station in summer 2014. Credit: NASA/YouTube (screenshot)

Astronaut Snaps Amazing Picture Of His Crewmates Returning To Earth

Wow! See that bright streak in the photo above? That’s a shot of the Expedition 40 crew making a flawless return from the International Space Station yesterday (Sept. 10) … a shot taken from space itself.

“Our view of the picture perfect reentry of TMA-12M,” wrote Expedition 41 astronaut Reid Wiseman, who just hours before bid farewell to Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). The re-entry was in fact so perfect that TV cameras caught the parachute immediately after deployment, which doesn’t always happen.

As you can see in the video replay below, the Soyuz made a bulls-eye landing near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan at 10:23 p.m. EDT (2:23 a.m. UTC). There are now only three people tending to the space station until the rest of the Expedition 41 crew launches, which is expected to happen Sept. 25.

Watch A ‘Jellyfish Of Fire’ Created On The International Space Station

Reid Wiseman, NASA astronaut and part-time master of Vine videos, has done it again. This time he’s showing off a flame experiment on the International Space Station called the Flame Extinguishment Experiment-2 (FLEX-2).

“Ignition, jellyfish of fire, warp-drive finish!” wrote Wiseman on Vine yesterday (Aug. 22). He also posted a slow-motion capture of flames in action, which you can see below the jump. FLEX-2, as the name implies, is the second flame experiment on board the International Space Station. NASA states the goal is to understand how small fuel droplets burn in space.

“The FLEX-2 experiment studies how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, and how mixtures of fuels evaporate before burning. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth,” the agency wrote.

Cygnus Cargo Carrier Concludes with Fiery Reentry Aug. 17 – Amazing Astronaut Photos

Cygnus reentry [17 Aug 2014]. In 84 days Reid, Max and I will ride home inside such an amazing fireball! Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
Story updated[/caption]

Farewell Cygnus!

The flight of the Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial cargo carrier concluded this morning, Sunday Aug. 17, in a spectacular fireball as planned upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 9:15 a.m. (EDT). And the fireworks were captured for posterity in a series of amazing photos taken by the Expedition 40 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). See astronaut photos above and below.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev documented the breakup and disintegration of Cygnus over the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand today following precise thruster firings commanded earlier by Orbital Sciences mission control in Dulles, VA, that slowed the craft and sent it on a preplanned destructive reentry trajectory.

Cygnus reentry on 17 Aug 2014.  Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
Cygnus reentry on 17 Aug 2014. Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst

Gerst was truly moved by the spectacle of what he saw as a portent for his voyage home inside a Soyuz capsule barely three months from now, with crew mates Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

“In 84 days Reid, Max and I will ride home inside such an amazing fireball! In 84 Tagen werden Reid, Max & ich in solch einem Feuerball nach Hause fliegen!” – Gerst wrote from the station today in his social media accounts with the fireball photos.

Cygnus was loaded with no longer needed trash and fell harmlessly over an uninhabited area of the South Pacific Ocean.

Today’s spectacular reentry fireworks concluded the hugely successful flight of the Cygnus resupply ship named in honor of astronaut Janice Voss on the Orb-2 mission.

ISS Crewmate Max Suraev just caught this amazing photo of Cygnus Orb2 disintegrating on reentry.   Credit: Roscosmos/ Max Suraev via ISS crew mate Reid Wiseman
ISS Crew mate Max Suraev just caught this amazing photo of Cygnus Orb2 disintegrating on reentry. Credit: Roscosmos/ Max Suraev via ISS crew mate Reid Wiseman

The astronaut photos may be helpful to engineers planning the mechanics of the eventual deorbiting of the ISS at some point in the hopefully distant future.

Cygnus finished it’s month-long resupply mission two days ago when it was unberthed from the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, Aug. 15, and station astronaut Alex Gerst released the vessel from the snares of the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:40 a.m. EDT.

“From start to finish, we are very pleased with the results of this mission. Our team is proud to be providing essential supplies to the ISS crew so they can carry out their vital work in space,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group, in a statement.

Goodbye, Cygnus!  Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
Goodbye, Cygnus! Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst

Cygnus roared to orbit during a spectacular blastoff on July 13 atop an Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket on the Orb-2 mission at 12:52 p.m. (EDT) from the beachside Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

It arrived at the station after a three day chase and was captured with the 58-foot (17-meter) long Canadian robotic arm on July 16, 2014 by Station Commander Steve Swanson working at a robotics workstation in the cupola.

Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft blasts off on July 13  2014 from Launch Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility , VA, on the Orb-2 mission and loaded with over 3000 pounds of science experiments and supplies for the crew aboard the International Space Station. Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft blasts off on July 13 2014 from Launch Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility , VA, on the Orb-2 mission and loaded with over 3000 pounds of science experiments and supplies for the crew aboard the International Space Station. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Cygnus arrival at the ISS took place on the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969 on America’s first manned moon landing mission by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

The US/Italian built pressurized Cygnus cargo freighter delivered 1,657 kg (3653 lbs) of cargo to the ISS Expedition 40 crew including over 700 pounds (300 kg) of science experiments and instruments, crew supplies, food, water, computer equipment, spacewalk tools and student research experiments.

This mission dubbed Orbital-2, or Orb-2, marks the second of at least eight operational cargo resupply missions to the ISS under Orbital’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.

Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft ‘Janice Voss’ departed ISS at 6:40 a.m.  EDT, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.  Credit: NASA TV
Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft ‘Janice Voss’ departed ISS at 6:40 a.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Credit: NASA TV

The next resupply launch of the private Cygnus Orb-3 craft atop the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket is currently scheduled for October 2014 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA.

Orbital Sciences was awarded a $1.9 Billion supply contract by NASA to deliver 20,000 kilograms (44,000 pounds) of research experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and hardware for 8 flights to the ISS through 2016 under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) initiative.

“With three fully successful cargo delivery missions now complete, it is clear our public-private partnership with NASA is proving to be a positive asset to the productivity of the ISS. We are looking forward to the next Antares launch and the Cygnus cargo delivery mission that is coming up in about two months,” said Culbertson.

Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft prior to blast off on July 13  2014 from Launch Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility , VA, on the Orb-2 mission bound for the International Space Station.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft prior to blast off on July 13 2014 from Launch Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility , VA, on the Orb-2 mission bound for the International Space Station. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing ISS, Rosetta, OCO-2, GPM, Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more Earth & Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Earth Nightlights (and Nightlife!) Shine In Stellar Shots From Space Station

A lot of action happens on Earth at night! Just ask NASA’s Reid Wiseman, a prolific picture-tweeter who recently uploaded a series of images of night lights shining all around the world.

From his perch on the International Space Station, Wiseman sent pictures showing borders from space, that glowing punch in the desert landscape that is Dubai, and clouds rolling in over the bright lights of Los Angeles. Check out some samples below the jump.

Watch This Weekend’s Near-‘Supermoon’ Set From The Space Station

With the full Moon approaching just a little bit closer than Earth to usual, a cosmonaut on the International Space Station took a few moments of his time to capture a few shots of it setting behind the Earth. Oleg Artemyev was just a shade closer to that Moon than the rest of us, and the sequence of pictures (below the jump) is stunning.

As Universe Today’s David Dickinson explained last week, the so-called “supermoon” refers to a phenomenon where the full Moon falls within 24 hours of perigee (closest approach to the Earth.) We’re in a cycle of supermoons right now, with this weekend’s the second in a three-part cycle this year.

The Moon appears about 14% bigger between its furthest and closest approaches to Earth. While the difference is subtle in the sky, it does produce higher tides on Earth (with an example being Hurricane Sandy in 2012.)

Technically the perigee happened August 10 at 6:10 p.m. UTC (2:10 p.m. EDT), but people  (including Artemyev) took several pictures of the moon a bit before and after that time. One example from our Universe Today Flickr pool is at the bottom of this post. You can see more examples on Flickr.

A nearly full supermoon rises above Bow Lake, British Columbia. Credit: Alan Dyer
A nearly full supermoon rises above Bow Lake, British Columbia in August 2014. Credit: Alan Dyer

Astronaut Spots Violence Over Gaza, Asks What Extraterrestrials Would Think

From his perch aboard the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst took this photo this week and said he could spot explosions and rockets in the blackness below. The location made him realize things were grim: it was over the Gaza and Israel region.

After the photo went viral on Twitter (it’s been shared nearly 40,000 times to date), Gerst wrote a blog post reflecting on what he saw. He acknowledged the violence wasn’t visible in the photo, but said he could still see it.

“What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet?” wrote Alexander Gerst in a post on the European Space Agency’s website.

“How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that.”

Gerst described the scene as “streaks of light going forth and back over a dark Earth, occasionally lit up by orange fireballs.”

Here’s the original tweet:

Video: A Dizzying, Whirly View Of The Earth From Space!

We’ve got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings and Earth observations.

In the video you can see a solar array from the space station gliding by the view on the left, and Canadarm2 (the robotic arm used for dockings) just barely visible on the right side, near the end.

Behind the camera is the prolific video poster Reid Wiseman, an Expedition 40/41 NASA astronaut who has been quite active on social media. He’s been posting pictures of the Earth on Twitter as well as numerous other Vine videos.