Sunset from the space station


A fiery view of the atmospheric layers over the South Atlantic.


NASA

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed a sunset that looks like a vast sheet of flame. With Earth’s surface already in darkness, the setting sun, the cloud masses, and the sideways viewing angle make a powerful image of the kind that astronauts use to commemorate their flights.

Thin layers of lighter and darker blues reveal the many layers of the atmosphere. The lowest layer – the orange-brown line with clouds and dust and smoke – is known to scientists as the troposphere, the layer of weather as we experience it. It is the smoke and particles of dust in the atmosphere that give the strong red colour to sunsets.

Astronauts see the atmosphere like this roughly every 90 minutes, as they view 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day. Astronauts often comment on how thin and fragile Earth’s atmosphere seems.

This image was shot on 27 October 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 240-millimetre lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Centre. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 49 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed.

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