Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

Photographing Star Trails From Space, At 17,000 MPH

ISS Astronaut Don Pettit offers a rare view from beyond the heavens.

  • 01 /07
  • 02 /07
  • 03 /07
  • 04 /07
  • 05 /07
  • 06 /07
  • 07 /07

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.

See the full set here. (Or in space.)