From Auroras to Airglow, Returning Astronaut's Home Video from Space Is a Holiday Treat

Two astronauts and a cosmonaut are scheduled to return home days before Christmas, and one crewmember comes bearing a special gift: breathtaking video footage from space. 

Tonight (Dec. 19), German astronaut Alexander Gerst bids farewell to the space laboratory he's been calling home since June of this year. You can watch that descent live on the homepage, courtesy of NASA TV.

Gerst and his departing crewmates make their final farewells tonight at 4:45 p.m. EST (21:45 GMT) and the hatch on the returning Soyuz MS-09 capsule will close less than an hour after that, according to an ESA timetable. Landing is scheduled for Dec. 20 at 12:06 a.m. EST (05:06 GMT). [Expedition 57: The Space Station Mission in Photos]

Gerst is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, and to commemorate the end of his Horizons mission, ESA published a mission highlights video that will take any viewer's breath away. 

"The toughest thing for me in space is knowing that only a few humans will ever see our planet like this," European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst said in the caption of this photo, published by ESA on Flickr. The Expedition 57 crew member returns to Earth days before Christmas 2018. (Image credit: ESA/A.Gerst/Flickr)

"Combining thousands of images taken by Alexander over more than six months, this Ultra High Definition video provides a glimpse into spacecraft operations and the beauty of Earth as seen from the International Space Station," ESA officials said in the Dec. 17 video's description. Additional photography by Gerst is available here

The reel opens on Gerst peering out from the station's Cupola, a dome-shaped, windowed module provided by ESA. The space shuttle Endeavor brought it into space in February 2010, on one of the final shuttle missions.

Flashing thunderstorms, meandering auroras and an orange airglow feature brilliantly in the video. Spacecrafts like the SpaceX Dragon CRS-15 and Japan's Kounotori-7cargo ships also make an appearance. The Soyuz MS-11 that launched Dec. 3 is also visible ascending in the video, liftoff trail and all.

Gerst will return to Earth with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev.

Follow Doris Elin Salazar on Twitter@salazar_elin. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Doris Elin Urrutia
Contributing Writer

Doris is a science journalist and contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.