If you’re fascinated with the crazy discoveries in space, you might want to check this out.
We Begin On Earth
The first time a human left earth to travel into space was Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961. About a month later, America achieved the same feat. In the following decade, in 1975, the U.S and the Soviet Union made their first joint effort in space travel.
Since the early ‘90s, Russia and America have collaborated on a number of projects, including the International Space Station, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it.
ISS-see Something Strange
The international space station first went into orbit in 2000 and saw its first crew, Expedition 1. It was a combined effort between multiple nations, including the U.S, Russia, UK, CA, and Japan.
The international space station is divided into two sections, the Russian end, and the U.S end on which various countries operate. And, as you can imagine, everything in space is completely different than what we deal with here on earth. But sometimes, astronauts will see something that even a veteran in the field has no explanation for.
Sights and Sounds
Sure, when you go on a mission to space, you’re prepped and trained as much as possible to deal with whatever unknown elements might come at you. However, there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Things that flip your world upside down, and things that shock and amaze.
What on earth – or, what off earth – was going on? What were they were looking at? No one had any idea how to answer either one of those questions. The crew were baffled by this unique site.
Smoke and Mirrors
Granted, these were all logical scientists, so, even though it may have seemed somewhat like an alien attack, etc., they ruled out that possibility immediately, and tried to figure out exactly what was making this happen. It looked almost like this gigantic plume of smoke was billowing out of the earth, and they knew that was far from normal.
So where exactly was this happening? They knew they needed to pinpoint the location and decode the phenomena.
Lindley Johnson is a major player at NASA. In fact, he’s the organization’s first-ever Planetary Defense Officer, and he knows a thing or two about space. Before moving to NASA in 2003, he had been with the Air Force for more than two decades.
So right away upon seeing this anomaly, the crew on the ISS knew that they had to get these photos over to him. If anyone would be able to figure it out, it would be him.
The Perfect Storm
A storm does not look the same to any two people – not even when they’re in the midst of it, but especially when one’s watching it on TV from the comfort of home, and another is trapped outside of it. But what about looking down from above a storm? Would you even be able to tell that that’s what it was? Turns out this was Hurrican Isabel.
Once Isabel began to pick up more power, her eye started to become more obvious on satellite. It was clear that somewhere in the world someplace was about to get hit with this major storm. But where?
On September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane winds of 105 mph. The hugely powerful hurricane hit North Carolina.
It also affected Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia while both directly and indirectly causing deaths in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, and the District of Columbia.
Smoke from Australia
Australia was dealing with a tragedy of its own in the form of bushfire season. Over 1 billion animals were killed in or due to the flames, including over 400 humans (34 directly.)
The flames look very different from those who were experiencing it and those who were looking at it from outer space. Smoke poured out into the atmosphere, causing sickness, death, and other damages.
Impact of the Flames
Aside from the billions of deaths that were caused by the Australian wildfires, damages included over $110 billion from September 2019 until the end of fire season. Over 2,000 homes were destroyed, and scientists conclude that there’s been long-term damage done to multiple ecosystems around the world as a result of all of the carbon dioxide emissions.
Whiles a lot of these shots from outer space can be baffling, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, they wind up with a beautiful, jaw-dropping image to share with the world.
Iberia is located in the southwestern corner of the UK and consists of Spain And Portugal. The ISS crew has snapped several stunning shots of the area, including this daytime photo, which makes it all look so quiet and peaceful.
Sure, there are plenty of peaceful components of the land, but there are also millions of people living out their busy daily lives on the peninsula. And, even though they’re very close to each other, it can feel like you’re in a different world just by crossing the small sliver of sea.
Looking Down on an Aurora
Auroras are beautiful natural light shows, caused by a storm in the magnetosphere. The name of the phenomenon comes from the Roman goddess of the dawn. They look beautiful from any angle but looking at them from space is an entirely different story.
Just imagine how it looks against the vast blackness that is space! And as it turns out, a lot of things are more visible up there because of the lack of light.
Sunset on the Horizon
Sunsets are gorgeous even when you’re looking at them from Earth. In fact, depending on where you are, they can be especially stunning. But at this angle, seeing a sunset is like seeing something that you’ve never seen before.
The way it pierces through the darkness and presents a line of light is something that you don’t get when you’re looking at it from ground level. One of the ISS crewmembers snapped this shot of a sunset view from outer space, and we couldn’t be happier they chose to share!
Looking Down on a Desert
The Sahara, located in Africa, is the largest, hottest desert in the world. It covers a massive 3.5 million square miles and has one of the harshest environments on the planet. But, from up at the ISS, it looks pretty peaceful, and stunning.
You can’t tell from looking down that there are dunes that reach nearly 600 feet in the air scaling back up towards you, but they’re there. And, although there isn’t much water in the area you can see the two rivers (the Nile and Niger) as well.
The Kavir Desert
Then, located in the middle of Iran is another desert that presents a spectacular sight from space. The Kavir Desert looks entirely different than the Sahara from up above, though when you’re standing in the middle of either desert and looking around, they probably look and feel pretty similar.
From this view, Iran’s great salt desert looks like something you’d see hanging on the wall in an art museum.
The Man on Mars
The myth of the man, seeing faces in the moon is nothing new. But the man on Mars? That’s a new one. Well, then came the rumor they’re working on Mars One, a manned mission to Mars, which turned out to be a myth, too. In fact, these pictures were first taken in the 1970s, long before the fake Mars One mission even got thrown into the rumor mill.
So, then what is this creepy face doing on the red planet? That’s what everyone else was wondering when they first saw it, too. The pictures startled and shocked, that is, until they found out that it was just a mountain.
Death of a Star
Astronauts get to witness some truly amazing things. In 2004, the space telescope caught this image of something that at one point, humans could never have imagined being able to see: the last moments of a star’s life.
Considering that stars live between 10 million and 10 billion years, it’s an amazing moment caught on film. Our sun has already been around for a whopping 4 billion years, which means in 6 more or so, it will inevitably die off as well.
The moon can be a truly beautiful sight from anywhere in the world, especially when it’s full. Photographers line up around the globe to get a good shot when they know that the full moon is going to be out. But the truth is, we only ever see just a little more than half of the moon, max, from our vantage point on earth.
When you’re in space, however, you get the full moon view every night... and every day. As innocent as the moon may be, there are some other things that are a little bit scarier in space.
Great Ball of Fire
This is what the sun looks like giving off a solar flare, a super powerful one that causes an eruption of plasma. As humans, we sort of have a love-hate relationship with the sun. We love it because we’d be dead without it, but we hate it when it’s making us miserable in the form of shingles or heatstroke, etc.
This shot was taken in 2002, but there are several others that look very similar. That’s because solar flares are actually pretty common, with up to several smaller flares occurring per day.
Put a Ring on It
About 31 million light-years away from earth sit the Sombrero Galaxy, AKA, Messier Object 104. It was initially discovered all the way back in 1781 and wasn’t officially documented until 1921. The galaxy is aptly named, thanks to the striking dust lane that gives it its picturesque features.
In the 90s, a supermassive black hole was discovered in the center of the galaxy in some imaging that came through Hubble. Photos of the galaxy are stunning from any direction, but the Space Telescope is able to show us details that we wouldn’t otherwise see.
The Tesla Roadster
Although this image may seem like something that has been created for a movie, it is in fact a real shot from Elon Musk’s 2018 launch of the Tesla Roadster. The “driver” is a dummy named Starman, who was launched into space mounted on a rocket’s second stage in a pilot for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy test flight.
Before takeoff, they placed a copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in the car’s glove box and set the sound system to loop David Bowie’s Space Oddity. They also made sure to include a sign that says, “made on earth by humans.”
The Raikoke Volcano is located on the Kuril Islands between Russia and Japan in the Pacific Ocean. Although it’s located in an area that has many active volcanoes, Raikoke itself has only erected four times since 1765, with the most recent eruption being in 2019. When it happened, gas and ash were sent up over 40,000 feet in the air, piercing the stratosphere.
This is the view of the incident from above. Luckily, it happened in an uninhabited area, so there were no fatalities. When the same thing occurred back in 1778, 15 people were killed by falling bombs of lava.
In the Past
Although the 2019 direction resulted in the stratospheric injection of ash and gases, it still wasn’t the largest of the most recent volcanic events in the area. No one was killed as a result of the most recent eruption, but the same can’t be said about the event that occurred in 1778 when 15 people met their end via lava bombs.
Purple skyglow after sunset coloured from deep blue to orange above rooftops silhouetted, the purple colour a result of the emission of fine volcanic particles in the stratosphere from Ulawan volcano, New Guinea, and Raikoke in the Kuril Islands, Northwest Pacific Ocean.
The Deadliest Volcano
Nearly 30 people around the world live less than 7 miles away from an active volcano, some of which are capable of catastrophic eruptions, and some that have resulted in such within our lifetimes. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, resulting in the death of over 70,000 people directly, and over 250,000 indirectly, by causing a massive wave of famine in the area.
The second-highest number of volcanic fatalities was also in Indonesia, when Mt. Krakatoa erupted in 1883, killing more than 36,000. Another major eruption would again affect a large number of people in the area.
Mount Etna, in Sicily, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with activity first being documented about 500,000 years ago. It’s been dubbed a Decade Volcano by the United Nations, one of 16, noted for their proximity to populated areas. Read: a catastrophic eruption could result in the loss of a lot of lives.
In 2013, it was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. In Greek mythology, Zeus trapped the monster Typhon under the mountain. The last major event in the area happened around 2,000 years ago.
While most of the world’s devastating volcanic eruptions have happened far away from home, that doesn’t mean the threat doesn’t exist in the US as well. Just take Yellowstone for example, which sits in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. The Yellowstone Supervolcano, yes, Supervolcano, is capable of producing extremely large eruptions.
Of course, the last super-eruption occurred more than 630,000 years ago, with the only other two happening between one and 2 million years in the past. Still, the fact that it could happen again has scientists a bit on edge.
The Black Hole
If there is one terrifying event in outer space then an astronaut definitely wouldn’t want to come into contact with, it would be the black hole. The black hole is an area of space that’s gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it.
And, considering how fast and, well, light, light is – nothing else has a chance. But what exactly would happen if one were to get sucked into a black hole?
Inside of the Black Hole
If light can’t even escape from a black hole, what hope do objects or living beings have? what happens to matter that gets sucked into a black hole? It basically gets compressed into a tiny disk and added to the gravitational field.
That is what makes the field so strong, all of the matter that has been compressed into such a small space.
The 2014 film, Interstellar , gave us a new perspective on what it’s like to travel into a black hole. In the film, a massive black hole named Gargantua that threatens the fate of three planets, including earth. Matthew McConaughey, who stars in the movie, deliberately travels into the anomaly, in which he comes face-to-face with the fifth dimension, which is inhabited by omniscient, interdimensional beings.
Unfortunately, there are no real-world reports from anyone who’s actually been inside of one themselves.
Sunset from Space
Sunset is particularly stunning when it’s seen from this interesting angle – above. A crew member snapped this shot from aboard the ISS. On earth, it would look entirely different, though sunsets are usually beautiful when you look at them from anywhere in the world.
From space, it creates a blue-toned line that pierces through the darkness, resulting in these gorgeous rays of light. While you only see one sunset per day on earth, you see more than a dozen from above.
Saturn’s Strange-Shaped Moon
Saturn has a total of 62 moons, and the innermost of which, Pan, has a pretty odd shape. It looks almost like it’s been flattened out, if you were to compare it to our moon. And that isn’t the only moon in Saturn’s system with a strange shape.
Atlas looks somewhat like a piece of pita bread, and Pandora and Epimetheus are covered in odd-looking grooves. Still, out of all of the 62 moons, Pan is by far the weirdest.
Katrina from Space
Hurricane Katrina was definitely one of the worst hurricanes to hit the United States, killing more than 1,800 people and countless other animals, and leaving millions of others without homes. Even from space, you can see how devastating she looked.
Still, looking down on the eye of the storm couldn’t have prepared anyone for the devastation the hurricane was about to bring upon the areas below. The Bahamas and the Southern U.S were about to be shaken and stirred.
Katrina on Earth
Katrina first reared her ugly head as a tropical depression in August of 2005, before gaining traction and coming to shore as a category 5 hurricane that went on a warpath through the Bahamas and the Southern US. It destroyed millions of homes and businesses and more than $120 billion in damages. The National Guard was deployed to aid with evacuations, and the aftermath of the storm was absolutely devastating.
Katrina is one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Also on the list is Hurricane Mitch, who devasted southern FL in 1998.
Super Typhoon Maysak
In 2015, category five super typhoon Maysak came crashing down on some islands near the Philippines. It did more than $8 million in damages and displaced thousands of people. Before the storm hit the Philippines, more than 20,000 people were evacuated, though by the time it got there, it was already weakened immensely.
A typhoon is something that probably looks a lot scarier from space than it does on the ground – though you still don’t want to get caught in one.
Typhoon V. Hurricane
Those who live near the coast in the North-Western Pacific Ocean are no strangers to typhoons. The term “hurricane” is used to describe the same weather phenomenon when it happens in the North Atlantic, or even the Central North and Eastern N. Pacific ocean.
In most parts of the world, plenty of warning is given for either, so that those who live in the area are able to evacuate if it’s an option and if they need to.
Dubai presents one of the most unique views from above that the world has to offer, or more accurately, that humankind has to offer. It’s because of all the man-made wonders of the area, including the interesting islands called The World or The World Islands. They are shaped like The world, along with The Palm, hence the name
This is The World’s second time around, actually, as the progress of the islands, each named for a different country around the world, came to a halt in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, and rumors that the islands were sinking back into the sea.
Dubai at Night
Dubai is a gorgeous site from above, whether you’re looking at it during the day, or at night. And, as it turns out, the Palm Jumeirah island, which is the one that sits in the shape of a palm tree and the largest man-made island in the world, is actually sinking at a rate of .20 inches per year.
But that is not stopping more construction in the area, which is all part of Dubai’s plan to become the world’s top tourist destination within the next five years.
Great Barrier Reef
Not a lot of things are large enough to be visible from space. The great barrier reef in Australia is not one of those things, hence this gorgeous image taken from above. One of the coolest things about the reef is that what you’re looking at is actually alive. In fact, it is the largest living structure on the planet.
CNN even dubbed it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. But what does it even mean to be a living structure?
A Living Structure
The Great Barrier Reef spans more than 1,200 miles in the Coral Sea, a large portion of which is considered a protected marine area. It is the only living structure on the planet that you can see from space, send it almost looks like veins running through the ocean.
Made up of nearly 3,000 individual coral reefs, the structure was put together by billions of tiny organisms called coral polyps. Unfortunately, even though a large portion of it is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the reef has lost half of its coral cover since ’85.
I see London, I see France
Ah Paris, the city of love. Full of hustling and bustling people, and young and old couples from all over the world. But when you’re looking down on Western Europe from space, the area has a whole new kind of charm.
Plus, it looks a lot more peaceful from above, and it’s quieter. Why? There are over 66 million people in France alone, so you can imagine how noisy it gets down there.
This cool-looking, spiral-shaped galaxy’s name is Andromeda, AKA Messier 31 (M31.) The galaxies located more than 2 1⁄2 million light-years away and was first spotted in the year 964 buy a Persian astronomer named Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, who wrote about it in his book, Book of Fixed Stars, calling it a “nebulous smear.”
Andromeda is our nearest, largest neighboring galaxy, and one of the only ones that can be seen with the naked eye.
Life Aboard the ISS
On the International Space Station, a crew of six people from around the world live and work onboard. Within 24 hours, the station orbits the earth 16 times, moving through 16 sunrises and sunsets. How crazy would that be?
To make up for loss of bone mass and muscle in space, astronauts work out for at least two hours every day. But, other than their jobs, there isn’t very much to do up there anyway – aside from looking out the windows, that is!
The Artemis program Is NASA’s next mission to land (another) man and a woman on the moon by 2024. Although the international space station has been inhabited continuously since the millennium, there hasn’t been a mission to the moon in several decades – until now, anyway.
The Artemis Mission has been in the works for years and consists of a new lunar outpost near the moon, along with more cutting-edge technology like new deep spacesuits.
Apollo 17 was NASA’s final moon landing mission, that concluded their Apollo program in the 1970s, and is the last time in recent history that humans have traveled beyond low Earth orbit.
The mission launched in December of 1972 and is dramatized in HBO’s 1999 miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon . So why is it humans haven’t traveled back into space since the ‘70s? But, if Elon Musk has anything to say about it, that will all change very soon.
A pair of astronauts in a SpaceX capsule Just made the first water landing that the world has seen since 1975. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, riding aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft we’re in orbit for just over 60 days when they touched down in the Gulf of Mexico.
With parachutes deploying out of the craft, they coasted down to the water at a cool 15 mph. Does the mission was a private one, maybe the way for more like it, including corporate research and sightseeing trips.
The sun’s corona is an aura of plasma that surrounds it and occurs when hot plasma cools to form dense magnetic fields. The fields themselves may be invisible, but the plasma that moves along its lines shows up under the extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, producing this really cool image, hypnotic image.
Though, as beautiful as it may appear from this angle, coronal rain is typically associated with solar flares. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory watches the sun 24/7, so it’s there to snap these killer shots.
A lunar volcano is exactly what it sounds like it would be: a volcano on the moon. Although there hasn’t been any activity for billions of years, scientists have found evidence that between three and four billion years ago, there was quite a bit of volcanic activity on the moon’s surface.
But how does a volcanic eruption work on the moon? As the flow of lava works slower but doesn’t stop, it flooded large areas becoming the lunar maria, a series of large basaltic plains. It’s too bad there weren’t any cameras around in those days to bear witness.
Looking Down on a Shooting Star
Did you know that shooting stars don’t actually have anything to do with stars? When one sees what we call a shooting star from earth, we’re actually seeing little pieces of meteoroids breaking apart as they fall into our atmosphere.
So, it’s actually a mini meteor shower that we’re witnessing. And the phenomenon looks just as cool from above, if not cooler, especially when you can catch it in a photo like this one. How many wishes do you get if you catch it on film? Just the one, or, do we get some do-overs?
If you have ever thought about becoming an astronaut, you’re not alone. Who hasn’t thought about escaping this planet at least once? And, floating around with no gravity seems like fun, as does seeing the earth the stars and the other planets from a whole new angle.
But there are plenty of downsides to the experiences, as well. Being trapped in a small, boring space with just a few other humans, for one. Not to mention, you have to drink your own urine. Yup, since water is a limited resource in space, astronauts recycle their urine by gulping it down.
One of Many
As of now, Hubble and our best estimations lead us to believe that there are at least 100 to 200 billion other galaxies in existence. In fact, in 2018, NASA released a report stating that they believed that number was actually 10 times too low.
And, considering how few trips we’ve made into space and how little about it that we’ve actually observed, it’s pretty reasonable to assume there’s still a whole lot out there to be discovered.
The Hubble Space Telescope was first launched in 1990 and remains in orbit today. And, although it’s not the first of its kind, it is the largest and most impressive, and its creator, after whom the device is named, is known as one of the greatest astronomers in history.
We have the Hubble to thank for many of the breathtaking images we have of outer space. Over it’s 30 years in orbit, the telescope has made over 1 million observations.
Casualties in Space
Since 1967, there have been a total of 15 astronaut deaths, and four cosmonaut casualties, during both training and space missions. In 1986, the ill-fated Challenger was taking off when it disintegrated after launch booster failure, killing all seven astronauts on board.
The Columbia experienced someone at the same faith in 2003 when it broke apart upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated, breaking into pieces over the southwestern US.