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Astronauts Snap 1 Million Photos from Space Station

One Millionth ISS Photo
Astronaut Don Pettit tweeted this photo on March 27, 2012. He wrote: "1 millionth ISS photo. Part of time lapse series. Not sure who took it, Dan Burbank or myself. We can't remember." (Image credit: Don Pettit (via Twitter as @astro_Pettit))

Astronauts on the International Space Station have the ultimate 24/7 view of planet Earth, and the photo album to prove it: The shutterbug astronauts recently snapped the millionth photo from the orbiting lab.

The millionth photo from the space station is, not surprisingly, a view of Earth from one of the outpost's windows as the orbiting lab sailed 240 miles (386 kilometers) above the southeastern Tasman Sea. Two Russian spacecraft are also visible, along with a green band of aurora light and the Earth in the background.

The photo features a part of the Earth that is just west of the southern tip of South Island, New Zealand, according to a NASA description. It was taken on March 7 and was released by the space agency on March 27.

American astronaut Don Pettit of NASA posted the photo online via Twitter to mark photo No. 1,000,000 from the International Space Station. It was captured as part of a time-lapse photo session of Earth, wrote Pettit, who regularly posts photos and updates from the space station under the name @Astro_Pettit.

"Illumination and the relative motion of features in the overall series of photos suggest that the view is towards the south to southeast with the approaching dawn to the left and a strong band of Aurora Australis, from left to right," NASA officials wrote. "A Russian Soyuz and a Russian Progress vehicle are seen center and right in the foreground, respectively."

But there is only one problem: The photographer is unknown.

The space station's six-man crew includes three Russians, two Americans and one Dutchman. Pettit has narrowed the photographer to either himself or NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who commands the station's current Expedition 30 crew.

"Not sure who took it, Dan Burbank or myself," Pettit wrote. "We can't remember."

Whomever the photographer is, the space station's current crew has been a prolific shutterbug team. The Expedition 30 crew is the latest in an unbroken string of astronauts who have lived and worked on the station since 2000, when the first crew took up residence.

Every crew of the orbiting outpost has taken time to snap photos of Earth from space. To date, space station astronauts have snapped enough photos to fill at least 319 single-layer DVDs, or 60 single-layer Blu-ray discs, NASA officials said.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.