Orbiting the Earth

This summer I linked to some cool photos from the international space station posted by astronaut Ron Garan — the picture where you could make out New Rochelle gave me the excuse I needed to add them to this site.

Well, this time I’ve got no such excuse, but the video below is just too amazing not to pass along. Edited together from time-lapse images by Garan and his crewmates, the video shows the Earth from an orbital distance of 250 miles. There’s a quick shot of Hurricane Irene at 5:16, and two or three passes over the United States, albeit too quick for me to identify any local landmarks or distinctive geographic outlines, except for really obvious features like Florida. But that’s beside the point. What’s most striking is the fragile beauty of the planet: flashes of lightning, the eerie Aurora at the poles, enormous expanses of desert, the night-side glow of human habitation, and the thinness of the atmospheric line that shields everything we know from the dead coldness of space. Puts all of our day-to-day concerns in their proper perspective.