Sometimes we forget how our planet is a “grain of dust suspended in a sunbeam” as described by Carl Sagan. A good way to remember this is with photos of the Earth taken by astronauts in space, which show the beauty and fragility of our planet — as happened in a recent record made by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who is currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Pesquet took the photo on the ISS dome, which shows one side of the Earth at night with the glow of the atmosphere and city lights in contrast to the stars in the background. In the description of the record, he explained that, sometimes, starlights “fight” with cities to dispute who is brighter and prettier. “I’m lucky to be the judge,” he wrote in the publication.
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The recording was made with a long exposure, in which the camera shutter was open longer to capture as much light as possible. Therefore, Pesquet explained that the photographer needs to remain as still as possible to avoid blurring the image. As the International Space Station travels at over 27,000 km/h, this is inevitable.
In addition to the city lights, the photo also shows how the Earth’s sky is never completely dark, as there is always a little shine. This is because the molecules in our planet’s atmosphere are constantly going through various processes — for example, when they separate during the day due to the action of solar radiation and recombine, they release excess energy in photons. This occurs in layers with different compounds: the outermost layer in shades of a blue and green has oxygen and nitrogen, while the reddish layer, at a lower altitude, has sodium.
Source: Science Alert
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