Daily Telescope: A colorful trail of stars through the largest window in space

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By journalsofus.com


Earth's cities shine alongside distant stars.
Enlarge / Earth’s cities shine alongside distant stars.

Don Pettit/reddit

Welcome to the daily telescope. There is too much darkness in this world and not enough light, too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We’ll let other publications give you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we’ll take a different route, drawing inspiration from very real images of a universe full of stars and wonders.

Good day. It’s March 19 and today’s photo comes from the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Don Pettit captured it during his most recent visit to the orbital laboratory in 2012.

After sharing the photo online this weekend, Pettit described how he captured this effect:

View of the star trail through a fisheye lens from the Cupola module aboard the ISS. A 360-degree view of Earth’s horizon shows a green glow at the bottom of the atmosphere (due to atomic oxygen emissions), a faint red glow on top of the green (also due to atomic oxygen), an aurora purple and the sun that will soon rise. The green airglow is about 120 kilometers thick, which includes most of what we consider our atmosphere. Star trails move in circles to the right and left of our flight path, while those in the direction of motion move in a straight line. At night, cities form stripes due to our orbital motion with an occasional lightning bolt like purple spots. Captured with Nikon D3, 8mm f2.8 fisheye, ISO 3200, 25 minute exposure time assembled from 30 second frames.

Pettit, a chemical engineer by training, was one of the true pioneers of astrophotography during his two previous stays on the ISS. He’s also a great inventor and fixer: the kind of person you’d want to take with you on a trip to Mars because he could probably improvise a solution to most problems.

The good news is that Pettit will return to space later this year, in September, on a Soyuz spacecraft. When he returns to Earth next year, he will be just one month shy of his 70th birthday!

Fountain: Pettit on reddit

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