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The International Space Station looks awesome in front of the Sun

Published Jun 29th, 2020 5:38PM EDT
nasa news
Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky

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  • A new photo released by NASA shows the International Space Station transiting in front of the Sun’s disk.
  • The image captures the space station as it travels nearly five miles per second while speeding around Earth.
  • The ISS completes roughly 16 orbits of Earth every single day.

The International Space Station is an incredible machine where some of the brightest minds on the planet conduct science and ensure mankind has a constant presence in space. Still, it’s sometimes easy to forget that at all times, the spacecraft is circling the globe and its human inhabitants are living their lives in microgravity while trying to do some very important work. NASA likes to remind us that they’re up there as often as possible, and NASA photographer Joel Kowsky came up with a fantastic way to do just that.

In a new image released by NASA, we’re treated to six individual photographs crunched into one. The six-frame image showcases the Sun, our beloved life-giving star, and the International Space Station as it orbits high above.

In the image, we can clearly see the International Space Station as it moves across the Sun’s disc. If we didn’t know it was up there we might think we were looking at an alien spacecraft monitoring Earth, but alas, it’s just the five scientists cruising along at a breakneck speed of nearly five miles per second.

NASA offers some context:

This composite image, made from six frames, shows the International Space Station, with a crew of five on board, in silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from Fredericksburg, Va. On board are Expedition 63 NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

The astronauts aboard the ISS don’t feel how fast they’re going, but the speed is pretty incredible. In fact, the International Space Station is able to complete an orbit of Earth in roughly 90 minutes and completes approximately 16 trips around Earth every single day. That’s over a dozen sunrises and sunsets, which has to be a bit disorienting when you’re trying to keep track of the days. Most of us will never experience what that is like, but somehow they make it work and continue to conduct groundbreaking research while flying high above our heads.

At present, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is docked to the ISS, having recently docked to bring NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the spacecraft. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has performed well thus far, but it’s not yet gained NASA certification. After the astronauts return to Earth aboard the spacecraft, assuming everything goes well and they make it back safe and sound, NASA will then give it the official stamp of approval, allowing the space agency to use Crew Dragon spacecraft to send astronauts to space whenever they want.