Stunning photos from the International Space Station show the Earth below from sunrise to sunset. But what takes half a day on Earth lasted less than one hour for astronaut photographers on the station.
The photos show the day cycle of Earth from orbit, beginning with a sunrise over Northern Europe and ending with sunset over southeast Australia. They were taken during half of a single orbit of the station as it flew around Earth. [See the photos: Earth's day from space]
The International Space Station takes about 92 minutes to complete one circle around the planet. Cruising along at 17,200 mph (27,700 kph), the station gives astronauts a chance to see 15 or 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.
Yet the amazing view doesn't seem to get old.
Astronauts snapped these recently released photos during an April flight of the space shuttle Discovery, which can be seen in the upper left of each frame. The top frame showcases snow-covered Norway, the Jutland Peninsula and low clouds cover Central Europe.
In the middle picture, the lake-studded Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains are visible. Smoke shrouds the lowlands along the southern margin of the Himalayas and much of Southeast Asia, including the Irrawaddy Delta.
In the bottom frame, Australia?s arid interior is colored with myriad shades of red. As sunset nears, cloud shadows lengthen, highlighting their structure.
Discovery was docked at the space station for its STS-131 mission at the time. That mission delivered vital supplies and science equipment to the orbiting lab.
- Image Gallery: Earth, As Seen from Space
- Top 10 Views of Earth From Space
- Image Gallery: STS-131 Mission of the Shuttle Discovery