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Sunrise over the Aleutian Islands, as seen from low-Earth Orbit

Illustration for article titled Sunrise over the Aleutian Islands, as seen from low-Earth Orbit

In need of a new desktop wallpaper? Looks like today's your lucky day.

This photo was taken on August 4. The International Space Station was soaring East at the time, at what's known as "the top of its orbit" – the northernmost latitude reached by the ISS (51.6 degrees north) in the course of its criss-crossing orbital path (what, you thought it looped around the same part of the planet every time?). In the foreground is western Alaska, though you can't see it – the Sun's low position on the horizon leaves the land cloaked in shadow. Click here to see it in high-res.



This image was taken about 15 minutes after local midnight in early August 2013. From their vantage point at 222 kilometers altitude, the astronauts were able to look northeast and see a near-midnight sunrise (when it was approaching noon in England). The rising Sun makes a red, teardrop-shaped reflection in the lower center of the image—perhaps a reflection within the camera lens, from the window frame, or from some item inside the spacecraft.

Long, blue-white ripples appear in the atmosphere above the midnight sun. These are noctilucent or “night-shining” clouds. Some astronauts say these wispy, iridescent clouds are the most beautiful phenomena they see from orbit. Noctilucent clouds are best seen after sunset, when the viewer is on the night side of the day-night line and these high clouds are still lit by the Sun. Crews are trained in this somewhat complicated geometry of clouds being lit from beneath, the spacecraft in sunlight, and the ground below in darkness.


Read more about noctilucent clouds here and here.



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