Some of the most stunning images in existence are photos from the International Space Station. The coolest and most breathtaking ISS pictures are taken on handheld cameras operated by the astronauts. Consider the selfies possible at over 200 miles above Earth with nothing but some tethers to hold you down.
Between work, school, friends, and updating social media it's easy to forget that we're spinning at 1,000 miles an hour on a small blue dot in the middle of an infinitely expansive chunk of Unknown. It frequently slips our minds. Luckily, we have astronauts and cameras to remind us just how far science - and humans - have come. Here are some of the most incredible pictures from the International Space Station to remind you of our place in whatever the universe even is.
The Red Panels, White Clouds, and Blue Waters of Miami, Fl
This photo captures the space station from above as it floats over the Earth's surface. That small(ish) structure is home to numerous scientific advances in medicine, engineering, and genetics. It officially made its debut as a national laboratory in 2005. The entire structure is 356 feet by 240 feet - relatively tight quarters for trips that can last five months.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia, is Earth's largest living feature. From here, it's hard to tell that the reef is made up of 2,900 individual reefs, or that it's home to over 1,500 fish species (and that doesn't even begin to count whales, or turtles, or ascidians)!
Nighttime Over the Nile
Here, the Nile, the world's largest river, is seen lit up from over 249 miles away on the Space Station. It's photos like these that inspire words like sonder: "n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk."
Higher Than the Himalayas
So this is Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth, made to look like nothing more than a mogul on a black diamond slope. Staring at this photo you have to wonder how infinitely tiny one feels after climbing Everest, and how similar that finite realization is to the ones that astronauts must feel as they take photos like this one. Photos of the highest point on Earth - from hundreds of miles above it.
ISS Repairs in Space
Imagine hanging from a floating laboratory in the middle of space to conduct some routine repairs on said floating laboratory. Just dangling up there. Thank goodness someone snapped a pic of the most epic hang out of all time.
Cleveland Volcano Eruption, Aleutian Islands
Mount Cleveland is an active volcano is Alaska's Aleutian Island Arc. While this photo, taken by astronaut Jeff Williams, is stunning, the volcano is actually a serious risk. The volcano has erupted several times since 2000 and poses a real threat to aircraft in particular. When the ash plumes make their way through the air, planes can experience damage to their exterior. If the ash makes its way into the jet engine, engine failure can also occur.
Stargazing in the Midst of Space
ISS crew members see nighttime on Earth 16 times each crew day, from every orbital angle. This photo was taken over the Pacific Ocean, several miles south of Hawaii. Because scientists on Earth were able to determine the spacecraft's location, they took their predicted star patterns and the star patterns found in this photo and concluded that the angle of the photo was pointed toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. There is an equatorial cloud layer keeping much of the ocean from view, but because of the location of Earth's curve, air glow layers (those colorful parts) are still visible.
Scandinavia at Night
The planet and its appearance is forever altered by man. This incredible photo, for example, displays a stunning view of Earth's surface from the space station. Our spinning blue dot of dust is sprinkled with twinkling lights that simply didn't exist a millisecond ago on the cosmic calendar. The glittering surface of our planet nearly mirrors the stars in the sky. Light pollution awareness aside, this photo is a beautiful reminder of the billions of little lives that shine on that suspended globe.