The International Space Station is cramped. Using the toilet is a mini-vac nightmare. And when some cosmonaut heats up a pouch of curry, it’s got to be like those moments some jerk microwaves popcorn at the office…times a thousand or so.
But there are moments when it must all be worthwhile–and most of those moments likely happen by a tiny window, looking down at earth while moving at 17,000mph. In this clip, a composite of many photos taken over a long time, we get a glimpse of what astronauts get to see at night from the heavenly eyes of the ISS.
What makes this particular clip so fantastic is that, of all the many ISS splicing videos thus far, it’s the most seamless, mixing shots from many different times into one fluid, central theme–the earth sleeping. And rather than be overcome by naive wonderment, NASA’s Dr. Justin Wilkinson walks us through exactly what we see, annotating the light bulbs of humanity, leading us through the torch of Central America, over lightning storms and through the deserts that look almost blue, like oceans after the sun has dropped.
At around 3:50, we fly over the US from the southern border. It’s easy to forget just how developed our country is, until you realize that its iconic shape, so recognizable in North America-centric globes, glows like a Christmas tree amidst the otherwise darkness. Paradoxically, we might be even easier to spot at night.