As part of the International Space Station’s 20th-anniversary celebrations, the European Space Agency (ESA) recently posted a stunning time-lapse video shot from the orbiting research center.
Compiled by German astronaut Alexander Gerst and with a soundtrack by Los Angeles-based musician Matt Piper, the video comprises more than 21,000 images captured from the space station in October as it traveled above Earth at an altitude of about 400 km (248.5 miles).
The breathtaking journey begins high above Tunisia before we head toward Beijing and onward to Australia. You can track the precise position of the space station via the inserted world map at the top right of the display. Labels pop up, too, informing us of the various cities and countries we’re passing over.
Particularly beautiful are the moments where day turns to night and night to day. During the night journey, there’s still plenty to marvel at, with major cities glowing brightly in the darkness, and random flashes of light revealing numerous thunderstorms far below.
As we pass over New Zealand, the sun bursts over the horizon, offering an eclipse-like effect as the light of a new day gradually fills the frame.
The space station travels at 28,800 kmh (17,895 mph) and so it takes only 90 minutes for the weightless laboratory to make a complete circuit of Earth. Gerst’s time-lapse speeds up the journey by 12.5 times, giving us two complete circuits in 15 minutes.
Wondering about the different parts of the space station that appear in the frame? To the left are some of the solar arrays that help to keep the station powered, while on the right we can see Japan’s HTV-7 cargo spacecraft that docked at the space station on September 27, 2018, and where it will remain until November 7, 2018. The white panels visible top left from 05:30 are the space station’s radiators that pump ammonia to exchange heat and keep the facilities and astronauts inside at the right temperature.
“Since the very first module Zarya was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 20 November, 1998, the International Space Station has delivered a whole new perspective on this planet we call home,” the ESA said on its website. As for Gerst, he expressed his thoughts in a recent tweet:
Congratulations to humankind for 20 yrs of overcoming differences, sharing a vision and for creating the most valuable, complex & unlikely machine that has ever been built by humans – for the benefit of all. Let this be the foundation for a bright future! https://t.co/7XnBTuwssQ
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) November 20, 2018