If Van Gogh Was An Astronaut

NASA astronaut Don Pettit has shared this image he took when he was aboard the ISS.


Photo of Earth from space
Credit: Don Pettit | NASA

He calls the image Lightning Bugs. It came from his 2012 ISS visit (although only released last week) and is the result of a 15 minute time exposure made from stacking one-minute exposures together.


There's a lot going on in Lightning Bugs. "In the photo, stars make arcing trails in deep space, while a huge thunderstorm pounds Earth below as seen from the time history of lightning flashes," Pettit explained. "The atmosphere between them glows green with what scientists call airglow, which has a different excitation mechanism than auroras."


Surely, if Van Gogh were an astrophotographer, he would have conjured up something similar.


While NASA has a reputation for serious science, there's always been an element of artistry in the images astronauts capture in space. Pettit gives us a different way of thinking about our planet. The bright streaks highlight movement and time, and how Earth and the people on and above it are never truly holding still.

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