Occasionally we get really amazing photos of earth and space from the International Space Station, but the batch recently posted to the ISS Flickr stream contains some of the coolest yet because they don't even look like earth or space.
If there wasn't recognizable space gear in the above photo, you'd probably think it was computer-generated. Boing Boing's Maggie Koerth-Baker nailed it, comparing the photos by Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit to scenes from Tron, and Twisted Sifter, which was among the first to notice the photos, pointed out the technical detail that the photos are possible as the ISS "hurtles around our planet at an average speed of 17,500 mph." Pettit explained his methodology on the Flickr page:
My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.
The results are stunning:
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