Is this really Earth we see in these photographs? It can’t be. There’s no blue ocean, golden continents, or clearly delineated socio-political boundaries. It must be some sort of cosmic record player…or maybe just a really great Photoshop…of something.
In truth, these photos offer us a glimpse of Earth from the International Space Station. As the ISS circles Earth at roughly 17,000 miles per hour, Flight Engineer Don Pettit takes 30-second exposures with a stock digital camera, then stacks those exposures into single frames that capture 10-15 minutes on the ISS. The rotation is fast enough for long exposures to blur the earth into gilded landing strip beneath a steady rain of stars–a scene I would have never imagined as beautiful before today. Heck, it’s a scene I would have never even imagined before today.