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Viewing the Earth From Space

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Despite any political differences between the United States and Russia, the space agencies of the two countries continue their cooperative work in Earth's orbit, aboard the International Space Station. Apart from the research being done in microgravity, ISS crew members continue to send back amazing images of our home world, photographed from low Earth orbit. Gathered here are recent images of Earth from aboard the ISS, and from a handful of other NASA satellites. [28 photos]

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One of the Expedition 39 crew members aboard the International Space Station used a 14mm lens on a digital still camera to photograph this pre-winter storm located just off the coast of southwestern Australia on March 29, 2014. A solar array panel on the orbital outpost is in the left side of the frame. (NASA)
One of the Expedition 39 crew members aboard the International Space Station used a 14mm lens on a digital still camera to photograph this pre-winter storm located just off the coast of southwestern Australia on March 29, 2014. A solar array panel on the orbital outpost is in the left side of the frame. (NASA)
This sector of the Green River canyon in eastern Utah is known as Bowknot Bend because of the way the river doubles back on itself. In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the ISS on January 22, 2014, the Green River appears dark because it lies in deep shadow, 300 m (1,000 ft) below the surrounding landscape. The yellow-tinged cliffs that face the rising sun give a sense of the steep canyon walls. The straight white line across the scene is the contrail from a jet liner flying over the canyon. (NASA) #
This photograph, snapped by an astronaut aboard the ISS on December 12, 2013, shows a white flash of lightning amidst the yellow city lights of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. (NASA) #
On March 30, 2014, the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of Nishino-shima, which sits about 1,000 km (600 mi) south of Tokyo in the Ogasawara (Bonin) Island chain. Four months earlier, a new volcanic island emerged just 500 meters offshore of Nishino-shima, and now the two have merged into a single island. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the USGS Earth Explorer) #
This wide field-of-view image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS shows an east-west swath of the southwestern Indian Ocean on January 28, 2014. Two remote islands, part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, appear in the center of the image. Possession Island (right center) and East Island (center) are both only 18 kilometers long. A smaller island, Ile aux Cochons (Pigs Island), lies 100 kilometers to the west. Each island has set up V-shaped trains of waves, like bow waves, as the air flows over the islands from the west (right to left). The bow-wave patterns are overlaid on the low regional stratus (blanket) cloud that is so common in the southern Indian Ocean at 50 degrees south latitude. This view was taken from more than 400 kilometers above the sea surface and reveals relationships that could not be readily understood by someone standing on one of the islands. For example, larger and higher islands produce larger waves. So the largest are being generated by Possession Island (934 meters above sea level at the highest point), and East Island, versus much smaller waves developed downwind of the tiny Ile de Pingouins (340 meters above sea level high, invisible below the cloud deck). (NASA) #
Lake Sharpe near Lower Brule, South Dakota is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member aboard the ISS on December 26, 2013. The Missouri River, in places, has many meander bends such as this, occupied by Lake Sharpe, an approximately 130-km (80 mi) long reservoir formed behind the Big Bend Dam. The lake surface is frozen and covered with snow, which also highlights circular agricultural fields on the small peninsula within the meander bend. This type of field indicates center-pivot irrigation, where water is distributed from a central point radially outwards using sprinklers to cover the field area. (NASA) #
The spider-like shape of Moscow, Russia, occupies most of this nighttime image photographed by the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the ISS on January 29, 2014. The orbital outpost was at an altitude of about 240 miles (386 kilometers) when a crew member recorded this image. (NASA) #
The Caribbean country of Cuba is pictured in this image, photographed by one of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the ISS, on December 26, 2013. (NASA) #
An oblique view of the Grand Canyon, from the ISS, on March 25, 2014. (NASA) #
Manhattan, with its long and narrow Central Park easily seen on the right side of the photo, viewed from the ISS on January 9, 2014, photographed by one of the Expedition 38 crew members. (NASA) #
A fresh apple floats freely near a window in the Cupola of the ISS is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on February 6, 2014. The bright sun and Earth's horizon provide the backdrop for the scene. (NASA) #
One of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the ISS recorded this image of the Manicouagan Crater and reservoir located primarily in Manicouagan Regional County Municipality in Quebec, Canada, on January 2, 2014. Scientists believe the crater was caused by the impact of a 5 km (3 mi) diameter asteroid about 215.5 million years ago (Triassic Period). The crater is a multiple-ring structure about 100 km (60 mi) across, with its inner ring as its most prominent feature; it contains a 70 km (40 mi) diameter annular lake, the Manicouagan Reservoir, surrounding an inner island plateau, Rene-Levasseur Island. (NASA) #
The darkness of North Korea. Flying over East Asia, an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS took this night image of the Korean Peninsula on January 30, 2014. Unlike daylight images, city lights at night illustrate dramatically the relative economic importance of cities, as gauged by relative size. In this north-looking view, it is immediately obvious that greater Seoul, South Korea, is a major city and that the port of Gunsan is minor by comparison. North Korea (center) is almost completely dark compared to neighboring South Korea and China (upper left). The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. The capital city, Pyongyang (center), appears like a small island, despite a population of 3.26 million (as of 2008). The light emission from Pyongyang is equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea. Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea's eastern shoreline. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kilowatt hours and North Korea at 739 kilowatt hours. (NASA) #
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this view of an alluvial fan in Kazakhstan's Almaty province on September 9, 2013. The Tente River flows through a narrow channel in the foothills of the Dzungarian Alatau range. Where the Tente emerges from the hills near Lake Alakol, it spreads out and becomes a braided stream. The movement of the channel over time has left a large fan that's about 20 km (12 mi) across at its widest point. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Adam Voiland) #
A set of NanoRacks CubeSats is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member after the deployment by the NanoRacks Launcher attached to the end of the Japanese robotic arm on February 25, 2014. The CubeSats program contains a variety of experiments such as Earth observations and advanced electronics testing. A blue and white part of Earth provides the backdrop for the scene. (NASA) #
Islands of the Four Mountains are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS on November 15, 2013. Morning sunlight illuminates the southeast-facing slopes of the islands in the photograph. The islands, part of the Aleutian Island chain, are actually the upper slopes of volcanoes rising from the sea floor; Carlisle, Cleveland, Herbert, and Tana. (NASA) #
The moon, above the Earth's limb, seen from the ISS on February 21, 2014. (Koichi Wakata/NASA) #
As the ISS passed over the deserts of central Iran, including Kavir, one of the Expedition 38 crew members used a digital camera equipped with a 200mm lens to record this image featuring an unusual pattern of numerous parallel lines and sweeping curves on February 14, 2014. The lack of soil and vegetation allows the geological structure of the rocks to appear quite clearly. According to geologists, the patterns result from the gentle folding of numerous, thin, light and dark layers of rock. Later erosion by wind and water cuts a flat surface across the folds, not only exposing hundreds of layers but also showing the shapes of the folds. The dark water of a lake (image center) occupies a depression in a more easily eroded, S-shaped layer of rock. The irregular light-toned patch just left of the lake is a sand sheet thin enough to allow the underlying rock layers to be detected. In this desert landscape there are no fields or roads to give a sense of scale. In fact, the image width represents a distance of 65 kilometers. (NASA) #
Mountain structure in central Namibia. May 15, 2014. (NASA) #
Haze and clouds above Malaysia, seen from the ISS on March 13, 2014. (NASA) #
One of the three Expedition 39 crew members aboard the ISS photographed this image of the departure of two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut in the Soyuz TMA12M from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on March 25, 2014. (NASA) #
March 27, 2014 -- A view from the ISS shows the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft shortly before docking of the two orbiting vehicles. (NASA) #
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this image of karst mountains in China on October 8, 2013. The image shows part of Guangxi Province in southeast China, a prime example of karst geology. (Robert Simmon/USGS Earth Explorer) #
Bazman volcano in Iran is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member aboard the ISS on January 5, 2014. Bazman volcano is located in a remote southern region within the Bazman Protected Area of Sistan and Baluchestan Provinces. While the volcano has the classic cone shape associated with stratovolcanoes, it is also heavily dissected by channels that extend downwards from the 3,490-meter-above-sea-level summit. This radial drainage pattern - looking similar to the spokes of a bicycle wheel - is readily observed in this photograph. Such patterns can form around high, symmetric peaks when water runoff and erosion is not constrained by the resistance of geologic materials or barriers to flow, leading to essentially even distribution of water runoff channels around the central peak. (NASA) #
A panorama of the Southern Patagonia Icefield was imaged by an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS on one of the rare clear days in the southern Andes Mountains, February 13, 2014. With an area of 13,000 square kilometers, the icefield is the largest temperate ice sheet in the Southern Hemisphere. Storms that swirl into the region from the southern Pacific Ocean (top) bring rain and snow (equivalent to a total of 2-11 meters of rainfall per year) resulting in the buildup of the ice sheet shown here. (NASA) #
The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft drifts Earthward with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on May 14, 2014. Wakata, Tyurin and Mastracchio returned to Earth after more than six months aboard the ISS. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft lands near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on May 14, 2014. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata is helped of the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin, and Rick Mastracchio of NASA, landed in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in Kazakhstan on May 14, 2014. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

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