Space Station orbits 354 kilometers (220 miles) above the Earth,
completing one trip around the globe every 92 minutes. Cruising along at
27,700 km (17,200 miles) per hour, the astronauts experience 15 or 16
sunrises and -sets every day. Since the launch of the Zarya
Control Module on November 20, 1998, the station has orbited the
Earth over 66,500 times (as of June 27, 2010). The station’s orbit is
inclined to the equator by 51.65°, meaning at its most northerly, it is
at the latitude of London, England, and at it most southerly it is over
the latitude of the Falkland Islands.
This sequence of time-lapse photographs illustrates roughly half an
orbit, from sunrise over Northern Europe (top photograph) to sunset
southeast of Australia, on April 28, 2010. The view is to the north of
the station’s ground track. In the upper-left, is the tail of the Space
Shuttle Discovery, which docked with the Space Station during the STS-131
mission. The animation begins with a view of snow-covered Norway (image
top) and the Jutland Peninsula (image center). Low clouds cover Central
Europe (image bottom).
The animation continues as the Station flies by Ukraine, eastern
Russia, the Volga River, and then the Russian Steppes. South and east of
the steppes, a dust storm comes into view over the Taklimakan Desert,
followed shortly by the lake-studded Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of
the Himalayan Mountains (center photograph). Smoke-shrouded lowlands
hug the southern margin of the Himalaya. Smoke also covers much of
Southeast Asia, including the Irrawaddy Delta.
After the Space Station passes over the sapphire-blue South China
Sea, the island of Borneo appears, followed by the open expanse of the
Indian Ocean. A trio of coral reefs lies off the coast of Western
Australia, which is studded with clouds. Australia’s arid interior is
colored myriad shades of red (bottom photograph). As sunset nears, cloud
shadows lengthen, highlighting their structure. Night falls as the
Space Station crosses the terminator above the South Pacific.
Astronaut photographs STS131-E-11693
courtesy NASA JSC Earth Observations
Lab. Animation & caption by Robert Simmon. Special thanks to
William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.
- ISS - Digital Camera