The ISS Has Entered the Twilight Zone

The ISS crew will spend spend New Year’s Eve surfing the “terminator”—the badass name for the line between day and night.

Dec 31 2014, 4:00pm

Image: Wikipedia

​ There's no party like a space party, and the ISS crew has been enjoying a lot of those recently. The six astronauts aboard the station decked out their orbital digs with stockings and a tree for Christmas, then celebrated commander Barry Wilmore's birthday on December 29. (In case you're wondering, he received a Russian ​medal from the Roscosmos astronauts and Reese's Pieces from his NASA colleague Terry Virts—an impressive birthday haul.)

Samantha Cristoforetti under the ISS Christmas display. Image: NASA.

But the festivities aren't over yet, and New Year's Eve on the ISS is already shaping up to be particularly memorable. While everyone stuck on Earth will say their last goodbyes to 2014 at sunset and hello to 2015 at sunrise, the astronauts will remain in perpetual twilight for days.

"These are very special days for us," said ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in a December 30 space-to-ground video i​nterview. "We have seen our last sunset for several days."

Interview with Barry Wilmore and Samantha Cristoforetti. Credit: NASA/YouTube.

"You've probably heard that normally here on board the space station we see 15 to 16 sunsets and sunrises every day," she continued. "But now, we're going into a very special period in which we basically track along what we call the terminator, which is the line between daylight and night on the ground. So basically, for four or five days we will be in this permanent twilight condition, where it's never night and it's never really day, and it makes for beautiful views out the window."

So while the ISS crew is normally treated to over a dozen New Year's Eve sunsets, this time, the festivities will be held in the badass shadow of the terminator. The astronauts still plan to make note of the celebration, however. "We'll break open a grapefruit juice or tropical punch, whatever we have on board," Wilmore said i​n the interview.

If you'd like to join the astronauts in raising a glass as they pass through the skies tonight, you can track their pos​ition here. It's a great way to vicariously join in the timezone-hurdling, twilight-surfing, low-Earth-orbiting space party on the ISS.