Photos: World Seen Through a NASA Astronaut’s Eyes

Florida Tech’s Student Astronomical Society (SAS) was once again able to attend the Harmony Dark Sky Festival last semester. The festival is an annual event where astronomers set up telescopes and the public can come take a look. There are also vendors set up along the street, many selling food, but also several related to space and astronomy. Presentations on spaceflight and star tours were also held with some consistency, as well as having access to the planetarium. All in all, it is a great place to learn more about astronomy and celebrate the need for skies without light pollution.

At the event, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, and he was generous enough to email his slide of photos to anyone who asked. These photos are his personal collection of rocket launches, dark skies, and spaceflight, many of which he took himself. For a little background on him, here’s an excerpt from his biography from his website.

“Story was [a] NASA astronaut for over 30 years and flew on six spaceflights. He performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission and on his last flight, he operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia.”

Cool, right? Here are some photos from his presentation that not many people besides an astronaut would have had the opportunity to take.

Using light from the launch in the background, Musgrave was able to set up this scene just as he wanted to.


I don’t think he took this one himself, but he knew how to get a hold of the picture anyhow. Apparently the launch had been a go– up until the shuttle was hit by lightning . . .


This is Musgrave working out in space. He told us astronauts always have to be careful about knowing where the Sun is in the sky; it isn’t like here on Earth where we can generally tell which direction the light is coming from. The blackness of space swallows up a lot of the light, so an astronaut could suddenly find him/herself looking directly at the Sun without meaning to if not careful.


This is the Hubble Telescope as seen from inside the International Space Station (ISS) as they brought it in for repairs, taken by Musgrave. He discovered the reflection of the window made it extremely hard to get a clear shot of things outside, as you can see by the reflected control panel from the space station and what looks like his hand on the camera.


Once outside on the arm and working on Hubble, Musgrave was able to get a good shot of the open shuttle beneath him.
Once outside on the arm and working on Hubble, Musgrave was able to get a good shot of the open shuttle beneath him.


Here is an example of light pollution as seen from space – Cairo and the Delta in Egypt and following the Nile down through the Sahara in Africa. That thin little line above the curve of the Earth is the atmosphere – that’s all that is between us and the vacuum of space!


This is a phenomenon called the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, as seen by Musgrave.


This is a lightning storm. Notice the little red light above the lightning storm. That is what we now call a sprite, an electrical discharge that occurs above a lot of powerful thunderstorms. It is really difficult to observe these from Earth’s surface, so getting images like this from the ISS is quite exciting.


The point of the photo blog was to show people that special lighting is not required to take fantastic photos. Most of these were taken in low-light conditions, a great example of the benefits of dark skies. Pictures like these are also evidence of the benefits of space exploration and what we can do with scientific innovations. None would have been possible without our world’s space program!

Florida Tech- Earth


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