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ISS048-E-10018
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Spacecraft nadir point: 16.5° N, 127.0° E

Photo center point: 17.8° N, 126.5° E

Nadir to Photo Center: North

Spacecraft Altitude: 217 nautical miles (402km)
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Image Caption: Cloudscape with thunderhead anvils, Philippine Sea

Flying over the Philippine Sea, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this image of a cloudscape from space looking toward the horizon, the thin bluish envelope of the atmosphere and the blackness of space beyond. The late afternoon sun brightens a broad swath of the sea surface on the right side of the image. In the distance towards the horizon, a region-wide layer of clouds mostly obscures islands in the northern Philippines (at image top right).



Looking toward the sun to capture an image is a special technique used by astronauts to accentuate the three dimensions of landscapes and cloudscapes due to shadows cast by these features. Two large thunderclouds rise next to one another (at image lower right). These have long tails, also known as anvils from their shape, that stretch nearly 100 km to the south. Anvils form when thunderstorm clouds rise high into the atmosphere and reach a "capping layer," often thousands of meters (tens of thousands of feet) above sea level. Capping layers stop the upward growth of a cloud, deflecting air currents horizontally to form anvils.