What Are You Looking At, Astronauts? Data Visualizations Of A Million Photos Taken From Space

Rocket scientist Nathan Bergey made a series of maps out of the locations of over a million photos taken from the International Space Station.

Some dreamers are content to merely gaze up at the stars, but Nathan Bergey is more interested in seeing the view of the stars themselves. Now, he’s given us all an unusual look from this vantage point.


A rocket scientist by trade, Bergey often has occasion to use some of the rich datasets available for the general public to see. Recently, he took it upon himself to comb through the Johnson Space Center’s Image Science & Analysis Laboratory’s giant database of every photograph astronauts have ever taken from the International Space Station. With data found here, he was able to decipher what astronauts like to photograph and create a unique portrait of earth.

Using data from 1,129,177 photos, Bergey created a visualization of the areas of astronautic interest. With programming languages like Python and tools like Beautiful Soup, he rendered the approximate latitude and longitude of the ISS photos as points on a map. He even color-coded them based on mission (if you want to actually zoom in on every photo taken, go here and knock yourself out).

Have a look at the images in the slide show above, and in the video below watch NASA’s just-released compilation of the best views of Earth from orbit in 2012.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.