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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: ISS029 Roll: E Frame: 31270 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS029
Country or Geographic Name: INDIA
Features: CREPUSCULAR RAYS, CLOUD, HAZE
Center Point: Latitude: 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: Low Oblique
Camera Focal Length: 110mm
Camera: N2: Nikon D2Xs
Film: 4288E : 4288 x 2848 pixel CMOS sensor, RGBG imager color filter.
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 25 (11-25)
GMT Date: 20111018 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 113253 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 24.0, Longitude: 80.8 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:
Sun Azimuth: 256 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 202 nautical miles (374 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: 7 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 2016
CaptionsCrepuscular Rays, India
Note: This caption refers to the image versions labeled "NASA's Earth Observatory web site".
The sight of shafts of light, beaming down from the heavens through a layer of clouds, has provided many an artist, scientist, and philosopher with inspiration throughout the centuries. Atmospheric scientists refer to this phenomenon as “crepuscular rays”, referring to the typical observation times of either sunrise or sunset. Shadowed areas bounding the rays are formed by obstructions in the solar (or lunar) illumination pathway such as clouds or mountain tops; however this alone is not sufficient to create the phenomenon. The light must also be scattered – by airborne dust, aerosols, water droplets, or molecules of the air itself—to provide the visible contrast between the shadowed and illuminated parts of the sky.
When observed from the ground, crepuscular rays appear to radiate outwards from the source of illumination due to the effects of distance and perspective; however the rays are actually parallel. This astronaut photograph from the International Space Station provides an unusual viewing perspective from above the rays. The sun was setting to the west (image left) on the Indian subcontinent at the time the image was taken, and cumulonimbus cloud towers provide the shadowing obstructions. The rays are being projected onto a layer of haze below the cloud towers. The image clearly illustrates the true parallel nature of the crepuscular rays.
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Recommended Citation: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." .