Breathtaking Views of Earth

We envy the International Space Station astronauts with their window on the world offering breathtaking views of the Earth and of the universe as a whole. Outer space may become the next frontier for vacations. If that becomes a reality, and we can book a space hotel with an eye in the sky overlooking Earth . . . wow, talk about a room with a view! Who would not want to go? We love to stargaze the majestic Milky Way, but crews from the ISS can also planet-gaze down at Earth. We also love NASA images and have looked at the space-walkers and photos captured from the ISS during Endeavor’s last-ever space walk.

Granted there are many countries with space programs and spacecraft taking awe-inspiring photos of Earth—so these images were not entirely captured by the ISS—but they made us dream of taking a space vacation. When we see any of these out-of-this-world pictures, we get ISS envy because those space station expedition crews get to live with those magnificent views for extended ‘vacations.’ Here’s a very small but wowza collection of 34 breathtaking pictures of Earth, and of spacecraft approaching the ISS, as well as two incredible videos.

Normally, we look up at amazing auroras, but the ISS crew is fortunate enough to have and captures auroras like this to give us an entirely different perspective of the phenomena.


Durrat Al Bahrain photographed by an Expedition 26 crew member on the International Space Station. At the southern end of Bahrain Island is a new complex of 14 artificial islands designed for residential living and tourism with luxury hotels and shopping malls. The Durrat Al Bahrain includes 21 square kilometers of new surface area—for more than 1,000 residences—that has been designed as The Islands. There are six “atolls” leading off five fish-shaped “petals,” but we thought the one of the lower right looks a bit like Pacman. Views from jet liners at high altitude—and orbital platforms such as the International Space Station—are the only ways to fully appreciate these spectacular sights.


Eruption of Cleveland Volcano, Aleutian Islands, Alaska is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 13 crewmember on the ISS. Visitors to outer space continually get to be awed by nature’s beauty on Earth, but they also have a ringside seat for all flavors of natural disasters

Northwestern Europe bright city lights on August 10, 2011 as seen by ISS


A Russian Soyuz spacecraft, docked to the International Space Station, is featured in this image photographed on 31 Jan. 2011 by an ISS Expedition 26 crew member. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for the scene.

Agricultural fields near Perdizes, Minas Gerais, Brazil as seen from the space station.

The World – Dubai World.

Room With a View – Window on the World. An Expedition 26 crew member used a fish-eye lens to capture this image of the Cupola of the International Space Station on (27 Jan. 2011).

Heart of Central Asia.

Wildfires with smoke plumes faintly visible in the night sky of Australia. The gold / green halo is atmospheric airglow hanging above the horizon.

ISS shot of Earth’s Moon

 Jules Verne ATV after undocking from the ISS. Backdropped by a blue and white Earth, ESA’s Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (lower left) appears to be very small as it continues its relative separation from the International Space Station

We looked at the Grand Canyon from an on-Earth perspective, but looking down at the Grand Canyon from the ISS and outer space is completely different

It’s very faint, but the ISS crew captured this rainbow over the equatorial Pacific.

This is but 1 of 16 sunrises ISS astronauts see everyday! On Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan used a high definition camera to film the rising sun as the station flew along a path between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Lit up night view of the Nile River and its delta.

While you’ve no doubt looked up at jet trails, this is contrail graffiti over the North Sea. The Envisat MERIS image over the North Sea captures numerous aircraft condensation trails, or ‘contrails’, as well as parts of the Netherlands (upper right), Belgium (lower right) and England (lower left)

The Astronaut View: Hurricane Earl as seen from the ISS.

When we think of Venice, we often imagine romantic boat rides through canals. But this is the view from ‘outer space.’ Floating City – The islands that make up the Italian city of Venice and the surrounding Venetian Lagoon.

Eclipse View from the ISS. The International Space Station was in position to view the umbral – ground – shadow cast by the moon as it moved between Earth and the sun during a solar eclipse. This astronaut image captures the umbral shadow across southern Turkey, northern Cyprus and the Mediterranean Sea

ISS shot of Ariane 5 rocket, just after liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport. The Expedition 26 crew had a special interest in the occurrence. The ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, had launched a short time earlier for an eventual link-up with the ISS. The unmanned supply ship delivered critical supplies and reboost the space station during its almost four-month mission.

The heart-shaped island of GaleĆĄnjak. The 500 m-wide island is situated off the Croatian coast in the Adriatic Sea, between the city of Turanj (visible in white stretching along Croatia’s mainland coast) and the Island of Pasman (bottom left). Other visible islands include (left to right): Garmenjak (bottom), Mala Bisaga, Vela Bisaga, Ricul and Komornik.

Madagascar jellyfish taken from Japan’s ALOS observation satellite and not the ISS, but still, what a wowza sight! The red coloring of the sandbars and islands between the ‘jellyfish tentacles’ comes from sediments washed from hills and into the streams and rivers during heavy rain.

 Moon from ISS

ATV as seen by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the International Space Station

A partly man-made island located in the Persian Gulf some 25 nautical miles northwest of Abu Dhabi. 

Picture of Hurricane Ike by the ISS crew.

Earth’s city lights.

NASA ISS - Aurora Australis

What does it feel like to fly over planet Earth?