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One Look Out the Window of the ISS Puts Every Sci-Fi Film to Shame

New time-lapse footage from the International Space Station reminds us that space movies may be beautiful, but nothing's better than video of the real thing.

I’ve been on a minor space kick lately. Aside from reading lots about the universe and planets in recent weeks, I’ve also watched both Gravity and Europa Report. Whatever you might say about those films as a whole, they are gorgeous. Or at least that’s what you think until you see clips from real space, like David Peterson’s “The World Outside My Window.”

The window in the video’s title belongs to the International Space Station. Peterson, the editor behind the clip, wrote on YouTube that his desire was “to bring a bit more attention to the station itself, including the humans aboard it.” The time-lapse images themselves are borrowed from NASA’s own Gateway to Astronaut Photography on Earth database.


The best part to me is how disorienting it all seems: lost in space, shadows rapidly rising and falling, letting your eyes scan but never focus on the planet bursting with life below you. But if you prefer a sense of definitive clarity over the free-fall of getting lost, Peterson lists the geographical locations you are hanging over at specific timestamps.

At sixteen seconds, you find yourself over Greece and Turkey. Just over a minute later, you are floating above the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and the United States. And in the last thirty seconds, you return your gaze to space, watching the Lovejoy Comet speed over the horizon of Australia and the moon shoot up above the planet.

I would second Peterson’s suggestion that you watch "The World Outside My Window" in the dark at the highest resolution possible. (And if this doesn’t satiate your hunger for beautiful space imagery, Peterson also made an equally impressive video in 2011 called “All Alone in the Night.”) But I’m not so sure about turning the volume up. The pharmaceutical commercial soundtrack sort of cheapens the experience of imagining yourself on the ISS, observing the world from an uncommon, extraplanetary vantage point.

Also, if we were going for the full effect, there's no sound in space.

That's a minor qualm, though. Space movies may be beautiful, but nothing's better than video of the real thing.

Thumbnail via Wikimedia Commons.