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The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
(NASA Crew Earth Observations)
Astronaut Photography of Earth - Display Record
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IdentificationMission: ISS024 Roll: E Frame: 6136 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS024
Country or Geographic Name: AEGEAN SEA
Features: POLAR MESOSPHERIC CLOUDS, ATMOSPHERIC LAYERS, SUNRISE
Center Point Latitude: Center Point Longitude: (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Stereo: (Yes indicates there is an adjacent picture of the same area)
ONC Map ID: JNC Map ID:
CameraCamera Tilt: High Oblique
Camera Focal Length: 180mm
Camera: N2: Nikon D2Xs
Film: 4288E : 4288 x 2848 pixel CMOS sensor, RGBG imager color filter.
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 75 (51-75)
NadirGMT Date: 20100616 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 222326 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 36.8, Longitude: 27.1 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:
Sun Azimuth: 3 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 187 nautical miles (346 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: -30 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 2343
CaptionsPolar Mesospheric Clouds Illuminated by Orbital Sunrise
Polar mesospheric clouds can be observed from both the Earth’s surface and in orbit by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The clouds are also called noctilucent, or “night-shining,” clouds because they are usually seen at twilight. When the Sun sets below the horizon and the Earth’s surface gets dark, these clouds are still briefly illuminated by sunlight. Occasionally the space station’s high-altitude orbital track becomes nearly parallel to the Earth’s day/night terminator for a time, allowing polar mesospheric clouds to be visible to the crew at times other than the usual twilight.
This unusual astronaut photograph shows polar mesospheric clouds illuminated by the rising, rather than setting Sun. Low clouds on the horizon appear yellow and orange, while higher clouds and aerosols (particles like dust and pollution) are illuminated a brilliant white. Polar mesospheric clouds appear as light blue ribbons extending across the top of the image. These clouds typically occur at high latitudes of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and high altitudes (76–85 kilometers, near the boundary between the mesosphere and thermosphere atmospheric layers).
The ISS was located over the Greek island of Kos in the Aegean Sea (near the southwestern coastline of Turkey) when the image was taken at approximately midnight local time. The ISS was tracking northeastward, nearly parallel to the terminator, making it possible to observe an apparent “sunrise” almost due north. Earlier this year, a similarly unusual alignment of the ISS orbit track, the terminator position, and the seasonal position of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun allowed astronauts to capture striking imagery of polar mesospheric clouds over the Southern Hemisphere.
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Recommended Citation: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." .