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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: ISS034 Roll: E Frame: 24622 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS034
Country or Geographic Name: PACIFIC OCEAN
Features: NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS, ATMOSPHERE LIMB
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: 400mm
Camera: N5: Nikon D3S
Film: 4256E : 4256 x 2832 pixel CMOS sensor, 36.0mm x 23.9mm, total pixels: 12.87 million, Nikon FX format.
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 75 (51-75)
NadirGMT Date: 20130105 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 102038 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: -51.4, Longitude: -163.3 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:
Sun Azimuth: 189 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 229 nautical miles (424 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: -16 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
CaptionsPolar Mesospheric Clouds, South Pacific Ocean
Polar mesospheric clouds—also known as noctilucent, or “night shining” clouds—are formed 76 to 85 kilometers above the Earth’s surface near the mesosphere-thermosphere boundary of the atmosphere, a region known as the mesopause. At these altitudes, water vapor can freeze into clouds of ice crystals. When the Sun is below the horizon such that the ground is in darkness, these high clouds may still be illuminated—lending them their ethereal, “night shining” qualities.
Noctilucent clouds have been observed from all human vantage points in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – from the surface, in aircraft, and in orbit from the International Space Station (ISS)—and tend to be most visible during the late spring and early summer seasons. Polar mesospheric clouds also are of interest to scientists studying the atmosphere. While some scientists seek to understand their mechanisms of formation, others have identified them as potential indicators of atmospheric changes resulting from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations.
This astronaut photograph was taken when the ISS was over the Pacific Ocean south of French Polynesia. While most polar mesospheric cloud images are taken from the ISS with relatively short focal length lens to maximize the field of view, this image was taken with a long lens (400 mm) allowing for additional detail of the cloud forms to be seen. Below the brightly-lit noctilucent clouds in the center of the image, the pale orange band indicates the stratosphere.
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Recommended Citation: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." .