At 67, Don Pettit is NASA’s oldest active astronaut. During three voyages to the International Space Station (ISS) – in 2002, 2008 and 2011 – Pettit earned a reputation as a highly skilled photographer, creating exceptional images of the ISS, Earth and beyond.
Pettit, who describes himself as an “engineer by training, scientist by profession and passionate explorer”, continues to share his amazing images on Twitter and Instagram, delighting his many followers on the social media platforms.
For example, check out this one captured during ISS Expedition 30, a six-month mission that began in December 2011. The image was shared on Twitter on Sunday and shows star trails over Earth.
Another notable piece of work shared just a few days ago shows mangrove forests off the coast of India. “Sunlit, specular sun reflections off the water’s surface give off an intense spot of light that not only distinguishes where there is water and where it isn’t, but can also show surface ripples caused by surface currents,” says Pettit in a comment on the image.
Another stunning example of his photographic skills, this shot shows a sunset inside the Station’s dome, a seven-window module from which many visiting ISS astronauts take their Earth images.
Another beauty, this time showing an erupting volcano (near-infrared) in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region. The magenta regions, recorded by Pettit during his last ISS mission, show healthy forests, while the gray areas show where the eruption has destroyed the surrounding area.
Pettit says that cities at night are one of his favorite sights. The bottom shows Spain and Portugal, with the bright lights of Madrid and Lisbon clearly visible among many other urban areas.
And here’s another stunner from the cupola. The long exposure results in city lights appearing as trails about 250 miles below.
Finally, here we see Pettit in action, quickly switching between an infrared camera and a normal view camera using a small device he built. Here the NASA astronaut does not shoot out of the dome, but through a window of the Russian service module.
Another astronaut who has made an impression with his photography is Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. During two ISS missions – the last in 2021 – Pesquet managed to capture many beautiful images of Earth, although, as he once explained, those images required a lot of preparation.
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