Sunset from orbit

I just wanted to share this image, because I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. This is a sunset as seen from orbit.

I love how you can see the different parts of Earth’s atmosphere as the sunlight shines through it. The weather systems in the troposphere, the thin cloud layers in the stratosphere, the blue glow from the curious mesosphere and the slow fade to black of the thermosphere.

Incidentally, I say curious because the mesosphere’s the part of the atmosphere we understand the least of. It’s too high for aircraft to fly in, but too low for satellites. Strange things happen in the mesosphere like noctilucent clouds (clouds of water ice so high in the atmosphere that they stay illuminated by the sun long after sunset), and lightning phenomena like red sprites and blue jets. Also, around 40 tonnes worth of meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day, and the mesosphere is where the majority of then burn up. Some are seen from the ground as shooting stars, but many are so small that we don’t even notice them.

But I digress. Sunset from the International Space Station is clearly a very pretty sight. And with the speed at which it orbits up there, they get to see sunsets like this up to 16 times a day! I feel somewhat jealous…

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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