A couple of hundred miles above the Earth, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station has taken a photo that looks straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey...
The man behind the camera – astronaut Don Pettit – created the trippy image by taking a series of 30-second exposures, stitching them together to give an even longer exposure.
Those psychedelic streaks of light are star trails made by the motion of the ISS around the Earth. Down below, the Earth’s atmospheric aerosol layer is visible as a brown and green glow, whilst the red smudge higher up in the atmosphere could be the aurora, according to astronomer Phil Plait. And those bright clusters of light over the Earth? They look a lot like lightning storms.
A total exposure time of 10 to 15 minutes was required for this image. Taking just one shot, however, gave a photo that was much too noisy to be useful, so Pettit combined 18 images to create a composite.
Pettit has been living on board the ISS since Christmas last year, and is scheduled to return home in July. With a view like that though, you could forgive him for wanting to stay up there a little while longer.
Image credit: NASA