ASTRONAUT PHOTOGRAPHY OF EARTH
As you work on your Expedition Earth and Beyond research, we encourage you to use astronaut photos of Earth as one of the main sources of imagery. As you view astronaut photos of Earth, think about what features interest you that you might use as the focus of a research investigation.

Stunning images of Earth are captured by astronauts almost every day. As part of your research, hopefully you will put in a request for new astronaut photos to be acquired to support your research. The examples below are just a few astronaut photographs that provide spectacular views of Earth from Space.

To check out more astronaut photos, check out our Quick List of Images or the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth website.

Learn more about astronaut photography by reading the information below.
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Images courtesy of the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA JSC (http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov)

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • The Crew Earth Observation (CEO) team at the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center takes advantage of astronauts in space to observe and photograph natural and human-made changes on Earth.

  • The CEO team is responsible for CEO operations, cataloging and metadata assembly, and crew (astronaut) training. Trainings allow astronauts to have a better understanding of features on Earth that are being studied for scientific purposes.Additionally, the CEO team supports and helps facilitate the Expedition Earth and Beyond Program.

  • Astronauts have been taking images from space since the Mercury missions in the 1960's. CEO has continued through all NASA programs including Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Skylab, Space Shuttle, NASA-Mir and the International Space Station (ISS).

  • Photographs taken by astronauts record the Earth's surface changes over time, along with dynamic events such as storms, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions, natural disasters, etc. There are hundreds of thousands of astronaut photographs available at the Gateway to Photography of Earth website: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov.

  • Astronauts use handheld cameras and a variety of lenses to take Earth observation photographs through nadir viewing windows (windows that view straight down to Earth) on the International Space Station.
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The Cupola on the ISS is a great place to take imagery. Image courtesy of NASA.

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Astronaut Jeff Williams taking an image from the Destiny Window. Image courtesy of NASA.


LENSES AND SCALE

  • It is important to have a sense of how much area is covered in any given image to better understand the scale of different features on Earth. The table below shows the different lenses astronauts can use as well as the approximate area that would be covered.

  • It is important to understand that the estimated area covered is an approximation for nadir images. Nadir images are images taken when the ISS is directly above a feature being imaged. The area covered in images taken an at angle (low oblique or highly oblique) can vary greatly. Area covered can also vary based on the altitude of the ISS.
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Image source: http://winearth.terc.edu/home.html


Lens size
Approximate Area Covered
50 mm
160 X 240 km (~100 X 150 miles)
80 mm
100 X 150 km (~62.5 X 94 miles)
180 mm
50 X 75 km (~31 X 47 miles)
250 mm
40 X 50 km (~25 X 31 miles)
400 mm
25 X 35 km (~16 X 22 miles)
800 mm
10 X 20 km (~6 X 12.5 miles)








  • This figure below gives a sense of the differences between a nadir (near vertical) image versus low oblique and high oblique image angles. The more oblique the angle, the more difficult it is to get a true sense of scale throughout an image.

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Image source: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/sseop/metadata/tilt.htm