Sunsets, Clouds Spin Past in Astronaut's Stunning Video of Earth from Space

Nile River from Space
The Nile River, Sinai Peninsula and other landforms are visible in this view of Earth captured by NASA astronaut Jeff Williams from the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

A stunning new video captures sunsets, cloud formations and other beautiful Earth vistas from orbit.

Wielding the camera was Jeff Williams, a NASA astronaut who has looked down on the planet for 534 days across several space missions, longer than any other American.

Williams commanded Expedition 48 on the International Space Station (ISS) and returned to Earth in September 2016, capping the latest of his four missions in space. Williams began his spaceflying career as the lead spacewalker for the STS-101 mission of the space shuttle Atlantis in 2000, which is when he saw the Earth from space for the first time. [Spaceborne: Spectacular Astronaut Photos of Earth and Space]

"What struck me was just the overall beauty of the planet, and specifically with the blues of the oceans and the whites of the cloud formations," Williams recalled in the new video.

"I put a high priority on photography and video [taken] out the window of the Earth," he added. "You see things at a different scale, and I think you can grow in your appreciation of what the Earth has to offer to support our livelihood, to support civilizations."

The Nile River, Sinai Peninsula and other landforms are visible in this view of Earth captured by NASA astronaut Jeff Williams from the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

Williams described the Earth as a "target-rich environment" for a photographer, particularly when the sun glints off the water or cloud formations shadow the features below. Several clips in the video show bodies of water, sometimes with human-made islands jutting into the blue. Clouds dance in front of the sun during a sunset (or is it a sunrise?) seen from the ISS.

The astronaut's video footage came from an ultra-high-definition camera aimed at the Earth's surface, 250 miles (400 kilometers) below the ISS.

Williams said that "memories diminish quickly" when an astronaut comes back to Earth, so he felt it was important to capture the view for others and learn to love the things that are unique to Earth.

While Williams didn't mention climate change, which is one of NASA's main focuses in Earth-observing missions, he did speak of looking at the human impact on the landscape below.

"You can see elements of the culture and history of the area just through the patterns of agriculture," he said in the video.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: