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ISS time-lapse shows how the sun sometimes doesn’t set

An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) has posted a gorgeous video showing the sun never really setting.

The European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti shared the footage (below) in a tweet on Thursday, June 9. Besides Earth and the sun, the video also shows the space station’s solar arrays constantly adjusting to catch as much energy as possible from our distant star.

“In ‘high-beta’ seasons, like back in early May, the plane of our orbit is such that we never get shadowed by the Earth, which means that the sun never really sets,” Cristoforetti wrote in the tweet.

Nelle stagioni "high-beta" il piano della nostra orbita è tale che non veniamo mai oscurati dalla Terra, il che significa che il Sole non tramonta mai davvero. Guarda! #MissionMinerva @ESA_Italia

— Samantha Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) June 9, 2022

With the space station orbiting Earth at around 17,600 mph, the facility usually experiences 16 sunsets and sunrises each day. You can see this happening during livestreams of spacewalks, with astronauts having to deal with constantly changing lighting conditions during excursions that can last for as long as seven hours.

But, as Cristoforetti points out in her tweet, at certain times of the year — specifically within a few weeks of the summer solstice in both hemispheres — the station remains bathed in sunlight as it orbits Earth.

The phenomenon occurs when the orbital facility pretty much aligns with the so-called “terminator line,” the location where the sun sets or rises on Earth.

Italian native Cristoforetti arrived at the space station in April 2022 as part of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, which is expected to last for six months. Her crewmates include NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins, and Robert Hines.

As part of the ISS’s Expedition 67, the Crew-4 astronauts are working alongside Russian cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev, and Denis Matveev.

To find out more about how astronauts spend their time aboard the International Space Station as it orbits 250 miles above Earth, check out these insightful videos made by previous inhabitants over the years.

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