Seeing stars through an astronaut's eyes

When you're orbiting the Earth almost sixteen times every day, opportunities for some stunning space photography probably arise more often than not. Nonetheless, there's something particularly wonderful about astronaut Don Petit's long-exposure composite shots from 240 miles above the Earth,  showing the movement and color in what's traditionally considered a desolate environment.

It's no 121-megapixel Earth, but the star trail photos are just as hypnotic in their own way. Petit stacks anything up to nearly fifty individual shots together to show the arcs of the ISS' rotation from his privileged vantage point.

"My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes" Petit told NASA. "However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then 'stack' them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure."

Petit will welcome three new residents to the International Space Station later this week, as Expedition 31 brings another US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts to the orbiting habitat. There'll be more opportunities for some groundbreaking photography, too, when the SpaceX rocket docks with the ISS later in the month.

[via Discover Magazine]