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Hurricane Earl Photographed From Space by Astronaut

Hurricane Earl Photographed From Space by Astronaut
Hurricane Earl is photographed by astronaut Douglas Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. (Image credit: Astro_Wheels/NASA [<a href=>Full Story</a>])

An astronaut on the International Space Station hasphotographed Hurricane Earl as it heads towards the U.S. coast as a powerfulCategory 4 storm.

American astronaut Douglas Wheelock of NASA has beenphotographing hurricanes from windows on the International Space Station andposting them on Twitter. Hurricane Earl is his latest target, though he alsocaught stunning views of Hurricane Danielle recently. [Photo of Hurricane Earlfrom space station.]

"HurricaneEarlis gathering some strength," Wheelock wrote Tuesday on Twitter, where heis chronicling his space mission under the name Astro_Wheels. "It isincredible what a difference a day makes when you're dealing with this force ofnature. Please keep a watchful eye on this one ? not sure if Earl will goquietly into the night like Danielle."

Hurricane Earl strengthened to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpsonscale of hurricane strength Monday. As of this morning, it is movingtoward the west-northwest with maximum sustained winds of up to 135 mph (217kph), according to the National Hurricane Center. The earlier hurricane,Danielle, has weakened into a tropical storm.

Wheelock is one of six astronauts living on theInternational Space Station, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 220miles (354 km). In addition to windows in the space station's U.S, Russian andJapanese segments, astronauts can also use a special seven-window observationdeck called the Cupola to photographthe Earth and space.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, 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.