Space Station Crew Enjoys Eye-Level View of Perseid Meteor Shower

With the bright moon that was out on the evening of August 13, many astronomy buffs were not able to fully appreciate the spectacular Perseid meteor shower going on in the night sky. From the International Space Station, however, astronaut Ron Garan had a front seat view as part of the Crew Earth Observations, or CEO, investigation.

Using a Nikon D3S digital camera with a 22 mm lens, Garan captured a stunning photo of one of the Perseid meteors streaking through Earth's atmosphere. You can see part of the space station's solar array in the image, allowing the viewer to share in the unique perspective of the crew from low Earth orbit. This photograph will add to the CEO investigation's collection of hundreds of thousands of Earth images.

The astronaut photography for CEO supports global research, according to William Stefanov, chief scientist for the Engineering and Science Group Contract supporting the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "The inclined equatorial orbit of the station, and having 'humans in the loop,' makes it a useful and unique platform in comparison to unmanned polar-orbiting sensor systems.

From the space station, data can be collected on Earth processes at different times of day, with different image resolutions, illumination conditions and viewing angles, than is possible from the majority of robotic sensor systems," said Stefanov.

One of the upcoming developments for CEO includes camera updates to enable images in near-infrared wavelengths. This will make it possible to better map vegetation conditions using crew photography. According to Stefanov, this is just one of the advantages to a station-based perception of our planet. "The orbital perspective allows us to view and record Earth processes that would be difficult, if not impossible, to measure from the ground at scales that provide local, regional, and global perspectives.

Atmospheric and oceanic processes, patterns of vegetation change and urbanization, changes to Earth's snow and ice cover and glaciers, and detection of erupting volcanoes, are all examples of Earth processes of interest to our societies that we can only efficiently monitor, in a global sense and on repeatable time intervals, from space," said Stefanov.

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