From the April 2018 issue

The majestic Earth as seen through the eyes of astronauts

By and | Published: April 20, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The Earth, as seen by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
We’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing photos of Earth from space that sometimes it’s easy to forget just how beautiful our planet truly is. Many astronauts have reportedly experienced profound spiritual transformations when viewing the Earth from space, a phenomenon that has come to be called the “overview effect.”

Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard recalled, “When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.

“Looking out the window of his Apollo spacecraft, astronaut Edgar Mitchell described it as “a glimpse of divinity” and says he felt as if he momentarily became one with the universe.

Another astronaut, Nicole Stott, said of her voyage into space, “I don’t know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed.”

Time-lapse of the Earth as seen by astronauts on the International Space Station. To the left, city lights map the web of civilization. To the right, near-continuous lightning strikes are speckle the clouds.


Aeon, a digital magazine of “ideas, philosophy and culture,” has created a lovely video with time-lapse imagery of our planet as seen from the International Space Station, together with commentary from four astronauts – Helen Sharman, Michael Barratt, Jean-François Clervoy and Daniel Tani – who describe the life-changing experience of viewing our planet from space. As Clervoy says, “Even if you’re a tough person you can’t avoid becoming a child again…”

In this time-lapse taken from aboard the International Space Station, the Earth’s auroras wash over the planet.


If you’re interested, you can watch this six-minute video by clicking here: