From the top of the atmosphere, that is! This gorgeous photo, taken from the Space Station on November 24, 2011, looks over our planet’s limb just after orbital sunset. We get a good look at cloud structures, the thin shell of our atmosphere (it’s always surprising how thin it really is), airglow, stars, and what looks like – I may be mistaken – zodiacal light, which is sunlight reflecting off dust particles orbiting within the plane of our solar system. Add to that a bit of the ISS itself peeking into the foreground, and we have quite an impressive photo here!
The ISS was positioned about 240 miles above the International Date Line over the North Pacific, looking west (and traveling its usual 17,500 mph) when this photo was taken.
“The one thing I think that I really took away from just the experience of looking down and up is that, first, our atmosphere is extraordinarily thin. You look at the edge of this Earth, and you see this razor-thin band of air that surrounds this giant rock in space, and it gives you a newfound respect for how much we need to take care of this very thin little atmosphere we have.”
– STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson