Imagine seeing the lights of cities spreading around the Nile Delta and then in less than an hour gazing down on Mount Everest. The astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are among the lucky few who will have this humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the beauty of Earth from space. Here are the amazing sights you can see from the space station;
- Storms and lightning
When the ISS orbits over a sea of thunderclouds, it’s not rare for astronauts to witness an impressive amount of lightning. What is unusual, however, is seeing lightning sprites, which were observed by astronauts aboard the space station.
2. Sunrises and sunsets
With the ISS orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, astronauts can see the Sunrise and set around 16 times every 24 hours. The dramatic views from the station display a rainbow-like horizon as the Sun appears and disappears beyond the horizon.
3. Stars and the Milky Way
As light travels through layers of hot and cold air, the bending of its rays renders a flickering image of these distant objects, while atmospheric particles such as dust-prevent from seeing fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies.
4. Meteor showers
Those small bodies are fragments detached from celestial bodies such as asteroids and comets. As they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at great speed, the heat due to the body interaction with air rapidly destroys them.
Whereas the chance of seeing them from the ground is very much weather dependent, being on the ISS guarantees the best seats to watch these shooting stars flaming across our planet’s sky.
Also known as northern and southern lights, auroras are created when solar storms, consisting of large magnetised clouds of energetic particles launched from the sun, or strong solar wind, interact with the Earth’s magnetic shield.
6. Cosmic rays
Galactic cosmic rays aren’t really a phenomenon you can see. These energetic sub-atomic particles come from intense astronomical sources such as exploding stars or black holes. If they pass into the body they can damage tissue and break DNA, causing various diseases over the course of time.