Thursday, June 16, 2011

Extraordinary image from space shows Britain in a whole new light

Twinkling brightly in a sea of lights, this is Britain as you've never seen her before.

An astronaut orbiting 230miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took advantage of a clear night in the skies to snap this incredible photo.

The sprawling metropolises of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow are revealed in a dazzling spread of yellow light.

Britain by night: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoili took this photo on a clear night while orbiting 230miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station

Towns across the UK can also be seen as small patches of light, while some of the busiest motorways appear as thin, spidery lines.

The image was taken by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

The 54-year-old captured the image - and others of a similar nature, including a close-up of Ireland and Northern Ireland - shortly before he left the space station for the trip back to Earth last month.

Nespoli was a crew member of Expedition 27 alongside Russian Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Nasa astronaut Cady Coleman.

The trio began their mission with the departure of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft on in December 2010 and spent six months on the ISS working on microgravity experiments.

Capital close-up: London can be seen in all her glory, including the M25 ring road

They landed in Kazakhstan on May 24, days before Endeavour concluded its final mission on June 1. Endeavour was on the next-to-last mission of Nasa's 30-year space shuttle programme.

Nasa's shuttle fleet is retiring after one last flight next month with a load of supplies for the station.

Commander Mark Kelly, Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori and Endeavour's four other astronauts - Gregory Johnson, Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff and Andrew Feustel - had returned to Earth after 16 days in space of repairs at International Space Station.

The crew installed a $2billion cosmic ray detector, an extension beam and a platform full of spare parts, enough to keep the station operating in the shuttle-less decade ahead.

Belfast, Dublin and Cork are prominent in this image of Ireland and Northern Ireland

The $2.2billion ship, the youngest of the shuttles with 123 million miles over 25 flights, is now bound for the California Space Center in Los Angeles.
Nasa is leaving the Earth-to-orbit business behind to focus on expedition to asteroids and Mars.

Private companies hope to pick up the slack for cargo and crew hauls to the space station.

Until then, Americans will continue hitching rides to the station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules at the cost of tens of millions of dollars a seat.

The ISS and the docked Endeavour in orbit over Earth. Nespoli's photo, taken last month, was the first taken of a shuttle docked at the ISS from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft

Photographer: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli captured the images shortly before he left the ISS for the trip back to Earth last month

Source: DailyMail

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