Pic of the week: Wildfires and city lights from the ISS

Pic of the week: Wildfires and city lights from the ISS

17 September 2015

published by www.washingtonpost.com

USA– If you’re a weather geek, space geek, or both, following the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is a must. In addition to capturing Earth’s physical beauty like towering mountain ranges and aquamarine water bodies, the astronauts share with us stunning pictures of weather from above. This new vantage point allows us to marvel at the weather like never before and see everything from hurricanes, to dust storms, to electrifying thunderstorms from space.

On Monday, astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted this picture of California, with the caption “#GoodMorning #California! I like your cool glow. #YearInSpace”.

In the picture, Los Angeles shines vividly in the upper right while Las Vegas sticks out like a sore thumb surrounded by a dark desert in the middle of the photo. While the vivid city lights stick out easily, do you see the warmer and softer-edged bright spots? Those are some of the large wildfires burning across the region.

It has been a violent week of wildfires in California, with much of the news surrounding the Valley Fire in central California. The Valley Fire ignited Sunday morning, and proved to be one of the fastest growing wildfires ever witnessed.

Photo credit: Astronaut Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly). Annotated by Kathryn Prociv

The average wildfire spreads the distance of six football fields in one minute. According to seasoned photographer Todd Sudmeier who was at the fire on Sunday, the Valley Fire spread the distance of thirty-five football fields in one minute. By Sunday night it was bigger and brighter than Reno, Nevada on satellite image. By Monday night, it was twice the size of San Francisco. It’s no surprise that wildfires, like cities, can be seen from space.

One more thing. If you thought the blue and turquoise glow around the earth was the aurora borealis, you would be right! The “cool glow” of the northern lights envelopes the Earth as you look north toward Canada.

Having trouble getting your bearings looking at the photo above? You could turn your screen upside down, stand on your head, or simply check out the flipped and annotated version below.

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