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Cool space photo shows rare sight of ISS orbiting Earth at night

The International Space Station (ISS) is a marvel of human engineering and ingenuity, as well as scientific achievement and international cooperation.

The facility has been orbiting Earth for the last two decades and was recently cleared to continue operating until at least 2030.

Besides functioning as a space-based laboratory, the station’s location 250 miles above Earth also enables it to carry out important observation work such as tracking the effects of climate change or monitoring natural disasters.

It’s also the perfect spot for capturing stunning images of Earth — but how about photos of the station itself? Such pictures do of course exist, but opportunities to capture the ISS from afar are fairly rare as they only occur during crewed trips to and from the facility.

Earth and the ISS shot from SpaceX's Crew Dragon.
Earth and the ISS shot from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at night. Thomas Pesquet/ESA

A rare flyaround of the ISS by a crew aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon late last year provided a wonderful opportunity for capturing shots of the station as it orbited Earth. Ace photographer and experienced astronaut Thomas Pesquet was among those on board the spacecraft when it flew around the ISS ahead of the crew’s journey home after six months aboard the station.

We’ve already seen several of Pesquet’s astonishing flyaround images showing the ISS against the inky blackness of space. And this week the European Space Agency spoiled us some more, sharing a superb photo taken from the same flight showing the ISS 250 miles above the Nile Delta in Egypt.

😮 This pic is just stunning. Taken by @Thom_astro during the @SpaceX #CrewDragon #Crew2 #Endeavour flyaround on 8 November 2021, this is the @Space_Station over the Nile delta.

More pics 👉 https://t.co/b9FRaTsFnH pic.twitter.com/3R787mDRhI

— ESA (@esa) January 11, 2022

What makes the image unique is that it shows the orbital facility not bathed in sunlight, but instead lit up by its own lights and with night falling on Earth below.

Pesquet captured the extraordinary picture using a professional Nikon D5 DSLR camera with an 80-400mm lens set at 80mm. The shutter speed was 1/5 of a second and the aperture f/4.5.

The French astronaut earned a reputation as an accomplished photographer during his most recent mission, regularly impressing us with beautiful Earth shots taken from the station’s seven-window cupola module.

But as Pesquet recently explained, finding the best scenery to photograph requires not just a good eye but also plenty of careful planning.

As for the night shot of the ISS, we think it’s one of the most outstanding images of his entire six-month mission.

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Trevor Mogg
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