During his most recent six-month stint on the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Thomas Pesquet earned a reputation for taking excellent photographs of Earth 250 miles down.
Pesquet returned from the orbiting outpost a few weeks ago, but despite posting plenty of photos while in space, he still has a lot left that he looks forward to sharing with his many fans on Twitter and Instagram.
So since returning to Earth, he’s been putting more impressive photos of himself online, with his latest post (below) featuring two fascinating images captured over Peru and Africa.
“Repetitive forms on Earth, but upon very close inspection, very different landscapes,” Pesquet wrote in a message accompanying the photographs, “Peruvian mountains rising out of clouds, resembling a landscape emerging from a river in Africa . “
A repeating form on Earth, but upon closer inspection, a very different scenario. Peru’s mountains rise from the clouds, resembling the landscape of Africa emerging from a river. #missionalpha pic.twitter.com/q1Edgu6sK3
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) November 27, 2021
Many of Pesquet’s photographs, like the above and below, resemble portraits and remind us of the boundless beauty of Earth’s myriad and varied landscapes.
Guinea Bissau, which I haven’t seen since my last mission four years ago (no, I haven’t been to all the places I photographed from space, unfortunately! https://t.co/U9cV9J4ylL #missionalpha pic.twitter.com/aWKeBuO7dg
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) May 14, 2021
At the end of his mission, Pesquet offered some insight into how he achieves such consistently great results with his space-based photography.
Hints of red and ocher, brown rocks and white clouds, flying over the Sahara (a plateau) #chad here) is never boring. @astro_luca I think it’s called Earth Skin, and he’s right, it looks like skin. https://t.co/M0IOQ9LlS6 #missionalpha pic.twitter.com/NEfwl9lsPz
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) May 17, 2021
Since most of his time was spent working on experiments aboard the ISS, he didn’t have a chance to sit outside the window and watch for hours on end.
So before the start of his mission in April, he spent time researching some of the sites he wanted to photograph. Importantly, while aboard the space station, he was also able to use special navigation software that showed which path the ISS would take, and whether it was day or night as the satellite passed through particular locations.
Despite the remarkable vantage point, Pesquet said it’s “much harder” than you might think to capture stunning Earth images.
“First, our orbits mean that we only fly periodically over specific areas,” he explained. “Second, even if we fly over an area of interest, it may be at night, so there will be nothing to see unless it’s a city with bright streetlights.”
He said that if an astronaut is working when the station passes through an area of photographic interest, it is not possible to drop everything and hold a camera.
In other words, many factors have to align for the chance to take a great Earth shot. For Pesquet, careful planning clearly paid off.