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Hello, Is This Planet Earth? Tim Peake’s Mesmerising View from Space

Hello, Is This Planet Earth? is British astronaut Tim Peake’s personal view from the International Space Station, which has been documented in a recently launched photography book. Published by Penguin Random House in collaboration with the European Space Agency, it includes over 150 stunning images that Tim Peake took during his six-month Principia mission, many of which have never been seen before. It includes a personal commentary from Tim, who will donate all proceeds received from the book to The Prince’s Trust.

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Passionate about quantum physics and cosmology, he is also an ambassador for science and space-based careers, and loves to inspire others, especially children, with his experiences in space. Before being launched into space, he was not a keen photographer, but the spectacular views from space made his job easy. ‘Looking out to Earth from space was absolutely mesmerizing,’ he said. He really enjoyed capturing striking images of our planet as it had never been seen before: elusive shots of Antarctica, the Pyramids, mountain ranges, glaciers, desserts, rivers, cities… He recalls William A. Anders famous quote about his moon flight on board the Apollo 8 mission: ‘We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth’. History repeats itself again.

Rise and shine.
Rise and shine.

Tim left planet Earth on 15th December 2015 from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Soyuz rocket with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and commander-cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko to participate in the Principia Mission (named after Isaac Newton’s ground-breaking text: Naturalis Principia Mathematica, describing the principal laws of motion and gravity physics). After spending 186 days on the ISS, participating in more than 30 scientific experiments and educational activities, the trio landed in the steppes of Kazakstan on 18th June 2016.

New York.
New York.

During the six-month stay in space – when he was not involved in science, maintenance, space walks, cargo vehicles and educational activities – he discovered a new hobby: photography. With professional advice from Max Alexander before his launch, Tim got many great shots, some of which have been collected in this book, giving us a perspective of our beautiful planet from an astronaut’s point of view: The Cupona window on board the International Space Station, 400 kilometres above Earth, from where you can see over 1,000 kilometres in any direction, for example.

Europe.
Europe.

According to Tim, one of the remarkable things about seeing the Earth from space is that by day, it’s very hard to spot any signs of human habitation; all that can be seen is the fragile natural beauty of our planet. But by night, it’s a different story: lights of towns, cities and man-made structures trace the pattern of human settlement. But taking good pictures in low-light conditions is not easy. Using a Nikon D4 and 28mm, 50-500mm, 400mm and 800mm lenses, he managed to take – literally – out of this world shots, like the image of London at midnight.

London.
London.

Such a clear image is rare: not only were there no clouds, but Tim also had the time to set up his camera. The Space Station flies at 28,800 km/h, so only passes over specific points of the Earth briefly, and its ground track moves along on each 90-minute orbit – so it was one of the rare chances he had to capture an image of London during his six-month stay in space. The orbital outpost has to travel at this speed to keep it in orbit, but this only adds another complexity to night-time astronaut photography. To get such a sharp result, Tim had to compensate for the motion of the Space Station. Judging the speed required by trial and error, Tim kept a steady hand for the 1/60th of a second that the shutter was open, tracking the city and keeping it in the viewfinder. The lights in the image are mainly street lighting, illuminating the streets of London. Lights appearing blue are LED-lit areas. Black areas in the picture correspond to unlit areas such as parks and rivers – the distinctive winding shape of the River Thames shows in black. Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Battersea Park are recognisable in the centre, the reservoirs at Walthamstow are upper-centre, and Richmond Park is at lower-left.

Scotland Northern Ireland and Isle of Man.
Scotland Northern Ireland and Isle of Man.

Some of the stunning images had already been shared by Tim on his social media channels, like ‘Milky Way Rising’, posted with the comment: “Watching the Milky Way rising over the horizon”; ‘Waving at Europe’, a picture of United Kingdom under the aurora; or ‘Rise and shine’. ‘United Kingdom and France’ is another spectacular night-time photograph, capturing London and the United Kingdom on the left, with Paris and France on the right. This is just a small example of the extraordinary images included in this book.

United Kingdom and France.
United Kingdom and France.
United Kingdom and France.
United Kingdom and France.

If you want to learn more about Tim Peake’s mission in space, watch this film ‘Space for inspiration: Tim Peake’s Mission Highlights and Outlook’ featuring the Space for Inspiration event that took place 14th – 15th September at the London Science Museum, in which Tim Peake recounted his experiences during his six-month International Space Station Principia mission, and looked to the future.

timpeake.esa.int

Credits

Images © ESA/NASA

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