Astronauts’ stunning photos from the International Space Station show Earth’s triumphs and tragedies in 2022

Astronauts’ stunning photos from the International Space Station show Earth’s triumphs and tragedies in 2022

butterfly shaped red and yellow lake in brown rocky landscape

Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, once one of the largest saltwater lakes in the world, on July 30, 2022.NASA

  • Astronauts on the International Space Station share stunning images of the Earth from a height of 250 miles.

  • From sunsets and moonrises to spewing volcanoes and breathtaking deserts, life in space is beautiful.

  • The best astronaut photos of 2022 reveal surreal beauty alongside extreme weather and war.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have a unique view from 250 miles above Earth. They can see both beauty and destruction on the planet below.

astronaut samantha cristaforetti looks through the space station's dome window at the ocean and clouds below

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti looks at Earth through the dome, the “window to the world” of the ISS, as it orbits over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru on October 1, 2022.NASA

“It’s hard to explain because the emotions are absolutely overwhelming. It’s an incredible scene of colors, clouds and land,” NASA astronaut Nicole Mann told the Associated Press in October.

view from space shows brown rivers flowing into blue ocean through green landscape

Maludam National Park in East Malaysia consists of low-lying forests and several rivers that flow into the South China Sea on June 7, 2022.NASA

“It’s hard not to stay in the dome all day,” she says added.

The ISS orbits the planet, completing one orbit every 90 minutes.

space station window view shows long time-lapse earth streaks below

This long-lasting image shows Earth 259 miles below a floating ISS, on September 19, 2022.NASA

That means astronauts see 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.

sunrise orange sky peeks above cloud tops

An orbital sunrise begins to illuminate cloud tops over the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaiian island chain on September 15, 2022.NASA

Orbital sunrises are breathtaking. The colors flow across the horizon, cutting through the darkness of the nighttime earth and the blackness of space above.

the rising sun pierces the blackness of space against the dark curvature of the earth with a thin blue line of the daytime atmosphere on the horizon

The sun’s rays begin to illuminate the atmosphere as the ISS flies into an orbital sunrise 261 miles over Texas on July 16, 2022.NASA

Astronauts can also see the moon rise and set over the curvature of the Earth.

moon goes below the horizon of the earth against the blackness of space

As the moon sets below Earth’s horizon, the atmosphere refracts or bends the light, making it appear flatter in this photo taken from the ISS over the Himalayas near Kathmandu, Nepal, on June 15, 2022.NASA

Looking at Earth, astronauts can see even more colors in the stunning diversity of our planet’s landscapes.

brown crag surrounds red-orange sand dunes

Part of the Sahara Desert in Algeria, showing sand dunes, rocky platforms and sandstone plateaus, on February 7, 2022.NASA

Prominent natural features, such as this circular rocky outcrop in the Sahara, often attract the attention of astronauts.

concentric circles landscape feature in reddish brown desert

The Richat Structure, also known as the “Eye of the Sahara”, an eroded geological dome in Mauritania, on August 21, 2022.NASA

Another circular structure, in icy and rocky Quebec, comes from a meteor impact during the Triassic period.

icy rocky landscape

The icy terrain around Manicouagan Reservoir, a lake formed by a prehistoric meteorite impact in far eastern Canada, on February 13, 2022.NASA

It can be seen from quite a distance.

earth below with circle in the middle of green landscape

The Manicouagan Crater in Quebec, Canada, features prominently in the center of this image from the ISS, April 3, 2022.Matthias Maurer/ESA/NASA

Some landscapes appear abstract, such as Minnesota’s famous lakes at night, which resemble shattered glass or water spilled over a dark table.

lakes in the dark reflecting light from the sky

The moon’s glint will beam off lakes on the US-Canada border, between the state of Minnesota and the province of Ontario, on August 14, 2022.NASA

Others are simpler, such as Italy and Sicily stretching out over the sea, such as Michelangelo’s fresco of Adam and God reaching for each other’s fingertips.

view from space sicily and italy landmasses reaching out to each other across the ocean

The southern tip of Italy’s boot, left, and the island of Sicily, on June 2, 2022. Mount Etna, lower right, Europe’s highest active volcano on the coast of Sicily, is visible, buzzing with activity.NASA

Did you see the volcano in that last photo? Here’s a closer look. Mount Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe.

view from space Mount Etna volcano with steam coming out

Mount Etna, off the coast of the Italian island of Sicily, is pictured billowing with activity as the ISS flies over Bulgaria on June 2, 2022.NASA

Preserved areas often have unique natural landscapes. This national park in Australia has a river that cuts through red soil and fills a series of lakes.

red landscape with muddy brown lakes and thin blue river

Kinchega National Park in Australia, with the Darling River and several lakes on its eastern edge, on August 31, 2022.NASA

Some of the best sights come at night.

circular city lit up at night view from space

Curitiba, a city of nearly 2 million inhabitants in Brazil, burned overnight on July 4, 2022.NASA

At night, astronauts can get a beautiful view of the Milky Way stretching above them. In this photo, a lightning bolt flashes on Earth below.

earth with bright spot lightning strike with starry sky purple and black above and solar panels from space station in the foreground

This time-lapse of the Milky Way galaxy also captured a lightning strike on Earth that was so bright it lit up the space station’s solar panels.NASA/Kjell Lindgren

Astronauts also regularly enjoy stunning shows of the aurora dancing over the north and south poles.

green and red aurora lights streaming across the earth horizon against the black space

A brilliant aurora sweeps over the Earth’s horizon over the Indian Ocean on August 17, 2022, northeast of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.NASA

But 2022 wasn’t all beautiful sunsets and breathtaking landscapes. Astronauts on the ISS said they could see the war unfolding in Ukraine, though they didn’t post any pictures of it.

satellite image of europe shows night lights with dark spot in ukraine

Satellite images of night lights across Europe on February 27, 2022 show a darkened Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.NASA World View

“At the beginning of the war, it got dark all over the country at night,” German astronaut Matthias Maurer said in May, adding: “People really only recognized Kiev.”

Side-by-side satellite images of Kiev show the city going dark after the Russian invasion

Kiev, Ukraine, seen by satellite in January 2022, left, and March 2022, right.NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens/Black Marble Data Courtesy of Ranjay Shrestha/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

He told the program “Morgenmagazin” of the German broadcaster ARD, according to a translation in News week.

“Then you could also see the impacts in the early days of the war. In Kiev, you could see lightning at night,” as well as the “missiles hitting,” he added, according to Newsweek.

Extreme weather ravaged the world — like Hurricane Ian, which the ISS flew over as it approached Florida.

hurricane swirls over planet

Hurricane Ian, just south of Cuba, builds strength in warm waters on Sept. 26, 2022.NASA

The ISS often gets a unique glimpse into the eye of a storm. The station also flew over Hurricane Fiona just days after it cut Puerto Rico’s power.

space station module above hurricane on earth below

The ISS will fly over the eye of Hurricane Fiona in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2022.NASA

Astronauts can also see the long-term damage that humans have caused. This lake is inundated with red algae because dams and agriculture have taken so much water from it, and drought has further depleted it.

butterfly shaped red and yellow lake in brown rocky landscape

Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, once one of the largest saltwater lakes in the world, on July 30, 2022.NASA

However, astronauts don’t look out the window all day. They are busy experimenting and maintaining…

astronaut in spacesuit on spacewalk above Earth

Astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA is imaged on the truss structure of the ISS during a spacewalk, on March 23, 2022.NASA

…welcome new spaceships full of astronauts or cargo to the ISS…

crew dragon spaceship flying in the black space with moon in the background

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance ship approaches the ISS with the crescent moon in the background, on October 6, 2022.NASA/Kjell Lindgren

… say goodbye to other spaceships…

shooting flash of light through space

The supply ship ISS Progress 79 leaves behind a plasma trail as it enters Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery but safe demise over the Pacific Ocean on June 1, 2022.NASA

…or just having fun…

astronaut looks at floating water bubble on the international space station

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio observes the behavior of a free-flying water bubble in the ISS Kibo laboratory module on October 1, 2022.NASA

… but they still take the time to appreciate the view from 250 miles.

red desert sand with distant mountains against deep blue ocean

The Namib Desert on the Atlantic coast of Namibia, on July 14, 2022.NASA

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