There are many perks to being an astronaut, with the biggest being that you can tell people that you’re an astronaut. Another equally big one is the stunning view from outer space that beats most scenic views.
This became more evident recently as NASA shared a photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as it passed over the South China Sea. The photo shows the curvature of the planet and two bright, glowing blue blobs that look straight out of a sci-fi movie.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, these bizarre blue blobs of light are the result of two unrelated natural phenomena that happened to occur exactly at the time the astronaut was taking the picture.
The first blob of light is a lightning strike over the Gulf of Thailand. Usually, lightning strikes like this one are not visible from the ISS as they’re covered by clouds. At this opportune moment, the lightning occurred next to a large circular gap on top of the clouds that caused the lightning to illuminate the surrounding area in a way that was immediately visible from the satellite.
The second one is not that dramatic. It’s actually the result of moonlight warping the Earth’s atmosphere. At the time of clicking the photograph, the orientation of the moon in relation to the ISS was such that the light it reflected back from the sun passed straight through the Earth’s atmosphere, which caused the moonlight to warp into a bright blue blob with a fuzzy halo.
If you recall some of the Physics you learnt back in high school, you’d remember that blue light has the shortest wavelength out of all the colours of light and, therefore, gets scattered easily. This is also why the sky appears blue during the daytime.
If anyone is looking for us, we’d be in the corner re-evaluating the life choices that didn’t lead to us being on the ISS to take in such a view at any given moment.