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Video from Above: Astronaut's Footage Shows Stunning Earth Views

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(Image credit: NASA)

Sitting in orbit about 240 miles above the Earth's surface, the International Space Station (ISS) and space shuttle enjoy truly spectacular views of our home planet.

Just how amazing this unique perspective on the world can be is made clear in a stunning new NASA video shot from the shuttle Discovery while it was docked with the ISS last year during the STS-131 mission.

The time-lapse video, from April 12, 2010, shows the transition from night to day as the shuttle and orbiting laboratory speed over the planet's surface, complete with auroras and the terminator, the diffuse border that separates the day and night halves of the Earth.

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Astronauts aboard the orbiting duo see 16 sunsets and sunrises on average in a 24-hour period as they orbit the Earth at a speed of about 17,200 mph (27,700 kph).

A solar panel from the ISS and a docked Soyuz module can be seen in the foreground of the video. The lights of cities are visible in the night portion of the globe, while clouds cover portions of the daytime half.

Discovery completed its last mission to the space station, and to space, when it landed at Kennedy Space Center on March 9 of this year. The 30-year shuttle program came to a close earlier today (July 21) with the landing of the shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy.

Andrea Thompson
Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.