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Photographing Star Trails From Space, At 17,000 MPH

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

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.

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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.)

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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