Astronaut Shares Incredible Star Trail and Lightning Photo Taken From ISS

Lightning Bugs by Donal Pettit

NASA astronaut and photographer Donald Pettit recently posted some of his stunning star trail photography taken aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

As reported by DPReview, Pettit joined Reddit and shared an incredible image he called Lightning Bugs, which he shot while in space on Expedition 30, a long-duration ISS mission, in 2012.

“This is a 15-minute time exposure made by stacking 1-minute single exposures. I used a Nikon D3s, ISO 800, 24mm lens at f/5. 6,” Pettit writes on Reddit.

“In the photo, stars make arcing trails in deep space, while a huge thunderstorm pounds Earth below as seen from the time history of lightning flashes,” he adds.

The atmosphere in between them glows green due to what scientists refer to as airglow. This excitation mechanism is different than the auroras .”

Airglow causes the night sky not completely darkened by the emission of light from a planet atmosphere.

Airglow can affect the performance of ground-based optical telescopes, which is one reason space telescopes like the James Webb telescope can peer farther into space and picture far fainter objects.

Keen also shared a stunning fisheye lens view of Earth taken from the Cupola observatory module.

“City lights flow as orange streaks, and faint star trails that show the Earth’s rotation are visible in the lower left, forming an image reminiscent of a spherinder, the 4D tesseract’s lesser known spherical cousin,” writes Petti on his Instagram page.

“Astrophotography can find exciting ways to combine both science and art,” he adds.

Donald Pettit floating in space with his camera gear, photo taken circa 2012

Pettit is a veteran of three spaceflights and has logged over 370 days in space that has included over 13 spacewalks.

He is an avid photographer who captures amazing photos from space. He appreciates art as well as science.

Speaking in 2012 about the challenges of shooting in space he told how reflections are a huge issue.

It is difficult to eliminate reflections from space, especially if you are taking photos at night time orbital. I call this my turtleneck,” he said.


Image credits: All photos courtesy of Donald Pettit/NASA.

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