Advertisement
Share

This is what your photo stream looks like when you’re a NASA astronaut

A time-lapse photo of star trails taken from the International Space Station is part of astronaut Donald R. Pettit's new book, "Spaceborne."
(Donald R. Pettit)

Since 1996 NASA astronaut Donald R. Pettit has racked up 370 days aboard the International Space Station and 13 hours of space walking.

Along with conducting scientific experiments, taking photographs is part of the job — and that’s just fine with Pettit, an enthusiastic snapper since he began with a Brownie camera in the sixth grade.

Pettit has compiled an extraordinary collection of awe-inspiring photographs from space in “Spaceborne” (Press Syndication Group, $59.95). The new book has his infrared images of an erupting volcano in Patagonia, underwater coral dunes in the Bahamas and amoeba-like incandescent auroras. It also has the astronaut’s poetic musings on celestial wonders. (He compares the beauty of flying through an aurora to being miniaturized and inserted into a neon sign.)

Nighttime is his specialty: lighting storms, passing comets and city lights.

“When you’re in orbit looking down at Earth, you can see entire mountain ranges and discern geologic structures that are impossible to see on the ground,” he says.

An infrared photo of an active volcano in the Patagonia region of South America.
An infrared photo of an active volcano in the Patagonia region of South America. (Donald R. Pettit)

SIGN UP for the free Essential Arts & Culture newsletter »

During a 2003 expedition, Pettit used spare parts to create something called a barn-door tracker, which allowed for sharper high-resolution photos of city lights from the orbiting space station.

He says his favorite vantage point was the station’s cupola, a dome-shaped module with seven windows pointing toward Earth and about eight cameras prepped with a variety of lenses. “It’s the most marvelous place to do observation or photography,” Pettit says. “You just grab one and start clicking.”

Technology allows astronauts to more easily share their experiences as modern-day explorers, he says. “One of the best ways to do that is through photography.”

A Pettit self-portrait in the cupola of the International Space Station.
A Pettit self-portrait in the cupola of the International Space Station. (Donald R. Pettit)
The aurora borealis seen from the International Space Station.
The aurora borealis seen from the International Space Station. (Donald R Pettit)
Vista point: Cameras are set to fire in the cupola window.
Vista point: Cameras are set to fire in the cupola window. (Donald R. Pettit )

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.

ALSO

Times art critic Christopher Knight’s latest reviews

Photographer captures Dave Grohl, Questlove and others doing 'The Drum Thing'

George Takei is giving 70 years of his belongings to a museum. Here's a sneak peek


Advertisement