Sunday, December 28, 2014

Earth Photos From The ISS Are Full of Surprises

One reason I love twitter, tweeting and tweeps is that I learn so much simply by doing something I enjoy. Hardly a day goes by that I don't learn something new. Here is today's discovery.

This morning, Sam Cristoforetti @AstroSamantha, who is currently aboard the International Space Station, tweeted a picture of the Hawaiian Island O'ahu with Honolulu clearly visible.

I retweeted this to my own timeline without noticing the odd coloration of the ocean at the top and at the left side of the picture, most likely because I initially saw a small version of it on my phone. 

Shortly thereafter, Frank Benson @mfbenson1 brought up this excellent question:

I took a second look at the picture and suggested we might be looking at some very thin, low cloud cover, since mud or sediment don't make much sense, given local geography. Clouds were my best guess, but since I didn't know for sure I included Peter Caltner @PC0101 in the conversation, who is a veritable fount of useful and factual information about pictures of Earth taken from the International Space Station. Turns out Frank and I had both guessed wrong:

Peter then tweeted a photo taken from the ISS that shows an example of extreme sun glint, so much so that the brightness 'wipes out' the colors of the land.

He added that glint pictures can be extremely useful, since they show coastal inlets and river courses better than aerial views. The ISS orbits at ca. 220 mi (350 km) above Earth.

Thanks, Peter, for this really cool lesson in orbital photography effects!

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