Stunning image from NASA astronaut captures ‘star trails in space’ from the ISS

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Incredible image from NASA astronaut captures ‘star trails in space’ on board the International Space Station

  • A NASA astronaut captured a stunning picture of ‘star trails’ while on a mission aboard the International Space Station 
  • Curved trails of distant stars and Earth being illuminated by city lights and lightning strikes can be seen in the viral photograph
  • The image was posted to Reddit on September 11 and received over 68,000 likes and hundreds of comments from users

A NASA astronaut captured star trails from space in a stunning image taken onboard the International Space Station.

Donald Pettit, an active American astronaut who has traveled to the ISS three separate times, was able to use his free time during missions to snap images of space from inside the station’s glass dome – known as the cupola – that provides epic views of the cosmos.

He set up his Nikon D3s camera and left it to take a 15-minute exposure shot. 

At the top of the image, white lines show the trails of distant stars, which are curved due to the rotation of the space station as it orbits Earth. 

A NASA astronaut captured star trails from space (at the top of the image above) from onboard the International Space Station

Earth itself is seen in the bottom half of the image, with orange streaks of city lights and countless blue dots—each representing a lightning strike from a storm below.

The image contains a green glow, known as airglow, that separates Earth from space. It’s similar in color to auroras in the night sky, which most people know as the Northern and Southern Lights.  

‘Auroras are excited by electrons, and other solar particles coming down Earth’s magnetic fields, which is why you see them in the polar regions,’ Pettit told Newsweek. ‘Air glow is everywhere around on Earth and, and the molecules in the upper atmosphere get excited from solar activity.’ 

The image was posted to Reddit on September 11 and received over 68,000 likes and hundreds of comments from users. 

Donald Pettit (above), who has traveled to the ISS three separate times, was able to use his free time during missions to snap images of space from inside the station's glass dome - known as the cupola - that provides epic views of the cosmos

Donald Pettit (above), who has traveled to the ISS three separate times, was able to use his free time during missions to snap images of space from inside the station’s glass dome – known as the cupola – that provides epic views of the cosmos

Pettit also explained how astronauts are able to find time to capture images of the cosmos. 

‘We work 12- to 14-hour days six days a week on station, and outside of that you are off duty,’ he told Newsweek. 

‘Outside of your normal working hours, you can do whatever you want to, which includes sleeping and eating and staying in touch with your family. And then you can spend that time doing photography. If I could do a couple hours’ of photography a day, that would be a real treat.’ 

Pettit posted the image to Reddit on September 11 and it received over 68,000 likes and hundreds of comments from users

Pettit posted the image to Reddit on September 11 and it received over 68,000 likes and hundreds of comments from users

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