NASA, this isn’t remotely fair to the grounded astrophotographers. There isn’t a better platform for incredible images than looking out the window aboard the International Space Station.
Captured in 2015, Astronaut photograph ISS044-E-45215 (that needs a better name) was enhanced to show off elements that the human eye will never be able to see. In the photo, you can see the darker clouds that represent an inner spiral arm of the Milky Way.
NASA loves its insane record keeping. Scientists on the ground matched up the position of the photo – taken over the Pacific nation of Kiribati – and worked out the stars visible in the frame.
Other elements include a spectacular lightning show that reflects off the solar arrays powering the ISS. That’s a thunderstorm I’d like to see.
It’s the type of image you can get lost in. Thankfully, NASA offers up the image for people to use as desktop wallpapers. Various resolutions are available to download. Even for us 4K monitor owners out there.
How ISS044-E-45215 Was Captured
It must be nice to have the best damn photography platform in the solar system. The astronaut behind the image was using a Nikon D4 with a 28mm wide-angle lens (an AF Nikkor 28mm f/1.4D to be exact).
Diving into the camera metadata, it’s humorous to see the ‘subject distance range’ print out unknown. Considering it’s pointing into our galaxy, I don’t think Nikon can quite handle distances measured in light years.
There’s not an ISS setting on DSLRs, so the Nikon D4 was left in manual with an ISO of 12800. Shutter speed was set for 1.3 seconds, and the aperture was left wide open at 1.4. Yes, there’s obvious post-processing happening in the image.
Lens artifacts were cleaned up, and areas were enhanced to show off the star field, the lightning flash, and Earth’s airglow.
The exact coordinates of the frame were at 4.2 degrees south, 161.7 degrees west at an altitude of 218 nautical miles.
The image is a fitting tribute to the ISS celebrating its 100,000th orbit. I know the crew has a full day, but how could you not just sit by a window and stare. That would never get old to me.
Want the image to download? Jump over to the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of the Earth. If you want to destroy any chance at productivity, NASA’s picture of the day site is a damn good place to get lost.