The official purpose of the International Space Station is Science: Astronauts living on the orbital laboratory spend the majority of their time in space testing microgravity's effect on physical objects, fellow animals, and themselves. The less-official purpose of the International Space Station, however, is Wonder. That there are, at this very moment, six human beings hanging out in space is a source of delight and maybe even inspiration to many of us here on Earth. And the fortunate few who get to do the hanging out take advantage of their vaunted environs, spending a good deal of their free time on the ISS taking pictures of the planetary scenery that spreads out 200 miles below them.
And I really do mean "a good deal of time." Since astronauts first took up residence there in 2000, they have snapped more than a million pictures from the station. That's nearly 30,000 images per Expedition.
And nearly all of those images have been archived on NASA's servers -- and, by default, are in the public domain. So the techologist Nathan Bergey did something great: He took NASA's data set and plotted the earth-based coordinates of the images taken from space. What resulted are graphics that double as hauntingly ethereal maps of the planet. Bergey archived only images that he found in NASA's database and that had a known latitude and longitude. So, he notes, "it's not necessarily every single image ever taken, but it's close."