Dark Side

Night Photography in Virginia

U.S. Eastern Seaboard at Night from the International Space Station, 2012

NASA U.S. Eastern Seaboard at Night from the International Space Station, 2012

U.S. Eastern Seaboard at Night from the International Space Station, 2012


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An Expedition 30 crew member aboard the International Space Station took this nighttime photograph of much of the Atlantic coast of the United States. Large metropolitan areas and other easily recognizable sites in Virginia are visible in the image that spans almost to Rhode Island. Hampton Roads is shown at the extreme left, while Long Island and the New York City area are visible in the lower right.

9 Responses to “U.S. Eastern Seaboard at Night from the International Space Station, 2012”

  1. Judy Whitehill Witt says:

    Eastern Seaboard Lit at Night

    In the black chill above,
    the Space Station basks
    in reflected glory, while below,
    rivers of radiant lava
    string city to city,
    bonfire to brilliant bonfire,
    seeping north to south
    along I-95.

    Bioluminescence is not a trick
    reserved for simple plankton.
    It’s also a glow fueled
    by cumulative power
    from mankind’s evolution,
    a revolutionary turn
    of the tables—of life
    consuming its creator.

    The Mother Ship spins benignly,
    eon after tidal eon,
    tolerant, to a point,
    of her rude new boarders
    who belch after overeating
    at her magnificent buffet.
    She patiently awaits the time
    when dark returns to the night.

  2. Grace Robinson says:


    If I were an astronaut, I’d tell you of the beautiful emptiness of space, the stars like an ocean all around me. The earth is peaceful from above, and I’m humbled by the grandeur of my home.

    If I were a whale in the deep, I’d tell you of the cold comforting ocean, like stars all around me. So much life there is in these dark places that you never see. We are all more alive than you know.

    If I were the moon, I’d tell you of the stability of time. The earth changes, life comes and goes. Waters grow dark, stars grow cold. But time passes through them all, and some things remain.

    But I’m none of these things. I’m just a writer. And as I write my stories and tell my tales, I am the astronaut, the whale, the moon.

  3. Thomas Maluck says:

    “Crescent Earth”

    The universe passes in cycles.
    Lunar shapes and nebulae
    morph across light years,
    ancient rays saved in telescopes
    like blind exhibitionists.

    The voyeurs cluster and plug in,
    lighting up the earth in spots
    and buzzing under cover of night
    like a ringing phone between cushions.

    Outside the glowing lanes,
    sleepy heads surrender
    and repel the siren call of screens
    and street signals. They are not counted
    from space, nor do they want to be.

    These wavelengths stretch toward infinity,
    in silence and in rapture,
    captured by unknown lenses near and far,
    always less than a complete picture,
    stars in the shadow of Earth.

  4. Christopher Thomas says:

    The US Eastern Seaboard at night onboard the International space station 2012 spans around the saying ‘what goes around comes around’. The electricity grids spark images, pictures, memories with the ideal of all planets unstable at the core. The shaping of power source on the Atlantic Coast appears as the hot lava ash and rock cascading down mountaintops, there seems erosion and run-off of high voltage, hot, and dangerous heat plaguing the area.
    The two satellites in the foreground bird watch down on the most concentrated spot of Atlantic coast with switchboard activity. The seige is missing only carnage of people running around, hands held high, signalling for support from the thirty crew member team glimpsing into the life of thousands, ususpectantly, as the watts continue to burn, smoke still bellows, and sickness spreads disease like into minds,bodies,air,and the likes. The proportion of quiet Earth in contrast to the active coast looks at first sight unequalivent until the seams rip, cracks open, and the whole coast and beyond catches light, blazing trails far from the snap of the space station cameras but in close proximity of an unknown galactic,solar system speeding into orbit. This picture inspires and motivates to do more while making a bigger positive difference than before.

  5. Joe Green says:

    I stare out from the ISS, still digesting the humbling experience of seeing the Earth from the outside with my own eyes. My eyes drift southward down the Eastern Seaboard from the familiar outlines of Long Island and New Jersey, to the Chesapeake Bay and the city lights of Hampton Roads.
    Just beyond there, I can see Interstate 95 illuminated by a near-continuous stream of headlights, and follow it to the lights given off by Washington and its surrounding sprawl. My thoughts now drift back to a childhood afternoon at Grandma’s house in Arlington. Dad had just brought me home from the National Air and Space Museum, and I excitedly told her of the things that I saw there. I told her of how these sights fueled my dreams of growing up to become an astronaut, and concluded by exclaiming “I’m gonna walk on the Moon someday! I might even be the first man on Mars!”
    She responded by crying out “Oooh-oooh!” and excitedly raising her arms in the air. “I look forward to seeing you walk on Mars, even if I can only see it on television!”
    Years later, before I made my first spaceflight, I was visiting Grandma in the hospital, and watching a nurse put her to bed. Just before I left the room to go home for the night, Grandma said to me “I just want to thank you for all you’ve done for me!” A few nights later, she passed on.
    I turn my head away from Earth, and towards the vast, mysterious expanse of the universe. The sight of these vast numbers of stars fills me with awe, tinged with an uncomfortable feeling of powerlessness. I think back to the confines of that house in Arlington that I loved so much, and how within it, Grandma did so much to open my eyes to the wonders that lay beyond.

  6. Diana Thompson says:

    Rising over the Gulf of Mexico, I note the curve of planet Earth shapes the image before me. I inhale deeply, still overwhelmed to see the outline of the United States below, city lights joined by dotted lines of lights through the deep darks of the less populated areas.
    The Space Station is dark and quiet as my fellow astronauts are harnessed into their sleep station bunks for some much needed rest. The light is dim and the soft whir and click of fans and instruments make the few sounds that contribute to the nocturnal serenade accompanying my watch out the starboard porthole. I’m looking at night embracing North America. I recognize Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads: a huge concentration of light against the dark curves of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. I remember how exciting it was to be a college student serving meals to Beach tourists, living and laughing with my beach family of cooks, waiters and waitresses. We always chose to work the four-to-midnight shift, so we could walk home in the dark, our bare feet following the line of glowing foam where the ocean met the sand. The full moon nights were the best, romantic and soft, quieter and cooler, the beach deserted except for lovers and a few other night owls. Shooting stars! That summer of love was extraordinary: music, friends, and a chaotic world that still seemed to offer such possibilities. A man landed on the moon!
    The space craft adjusts its trajectory ever so slightly and I spot Richmond, another large and uneven pool of light. I picture myself walking along the cobblestone alleys, my old 35mm around my neck, in search of the perfect black and white photo or some discarded item for an art project. Funny how art school morphed into a fascination with maps and then science, which then became a serious study of Earth cartography, astrophysics, and looking at the textures of distant heavenly bodies. Now I’m here studying the viability of life beyond Earth through planetary surface pattern analysis. Maps have always intrigued me, the calligraphy of rivers across the terrain, the gridded arrangements of streets radiating from urban parks, the size and proximity of populated areas adjacent to rivers and ports. What is it about a place that makes it so comfortable to me and not others? Why do people cluster in places that seem rather inhospitable? Why do humans gravitate toward places that are already so crowded? And why do some places seem to have a spiritual or magnetic force, a magic energy? Will we find hospitable places beyond our home planet? For years I have studied maps, large and small, ancient and new, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, seeking answers. I think the maps only make me more curious.
    Wonder what my dad would think of me now? He flew a single-seater Piper Cub out of Beacon Field in the 1930s and 40s, and now, look at me in this extraordinary 21st century rocket ship, living the map-lover’s dream of looking down on the night-lit terrain that is our homeland. How I wish he was flying with me. Or maybe he is…
    There it is! Alexandria, on the southern edge of the broad light concentration that is the DC area, where my parents lived for so long, and where I grew up. What I know now about the politics is softened by my childhood memories of playing in the creek, looking for box turtles, roller skating (and falling down) until my knees bled, and riding my bike until just after dark when we had to be home for dinner. All of us kids in the neighborhood seemed to be in constant motion, on bikes or skates, running, jumping rope, or playing softball or basketball. What a staggering amount of Bactine and Band-Aids our mothers must have used during our out-of-school months. Summer nights at home were delicious, when the air finally cooled a bit, and the crickets and locusts – and the monotonous night birds — chirped as we fell asleep in our rooms with the windows wide open, in a backyard tent, or best of all, on the screened porch. Summer darkness came late and we loved it; it was a chance to stay up later that we usually did and actually run around in the yard catching lightnin’ bugs to keep in a jar–if only for just a little while so we could watch them up close as they lit up the darkness. Bioluminescence is a remarkable thing.
    Suddenly I come out of my reminiscing to realize we are over the New York metro area, a city I love – so many great museums, food, shopping, walking, more walking, and people of all kinds. Such an exhausting treat whenever we go there, a place where it never seems to matter whether it is day or night, there is always plenty of action. But there is never enough darkness; you can never see the stars.
    All that running and biking and skating and movement through the world must have led me here to where I am, cruising above the atmosphere in the International Space Station, taking photographs of planet Earth out the porthole, pouring over maps, and engaging in lung, blood and bone tests to assess the effects of spaceflight on my body. Fast as we go, I don’t feel a sensation of speed, just a graceful weightless giddiness from the diminished gravity. I love the night sky, but I know it will soon fade into dawn… As I close my eyes for just a moment of rest, I wonder what it will feel like to stop, when I land once again on terra firma, that peaceful night time landing when I complete my mission of moving through space as the first grandma on a NASA mission.

  7. J.S.Lee says:

    the meaning of loneliness, two thousand twelve

    so many sparks.
    how will we find each other?

  8. Elizabeth Ballou says:


    It’s shifts like this one where I’d trade every last cigarette from my ration pack for a scoop of ice cream that isn’t freeze-dried, or a green skirt instead of my uniform jumpsuits, or a window that doesn’t look out on stars and nebulas pinwheeling past. Shifts that go for eleven hours, from the moment I roll out of my bunk in the American quarters until I head back for a protein bar and a few minutes of quiet. Shifts where my fingers burn from manipulating keys and wires like it’s some kind of game.
    “Talia.” I don’t look. There’s a crick in my neck from staring at one of the maintenance boards for the main solar panel array. “Hey. Talia. You hear me? Look alive.” It’s Ramirez’s voice, the young Texan with big ears who got here two weeks ago. He still has that sturdy glow of someone who’s come from Earth not long ago.
    “What do you need, Ramirez?”
    “Pass me your set of pliers, would you?”
    “Yeah, sure.” I give him the worn set we share among our crew of six.
    He touches me on the shoulder. “Only half an hour left until we’ve finished our daytime.”
    “Yeah, maybe. We need this repaired if we want to keep the toilets flushing.” I wonder when the stale air and sterile walls of the ISS will grind down his smile, the light in his eyes.
    It only takes forty-five minutes past the end of our day cycle for us to completely rework the wiring. “Not so bad,” says Xiao, listlessly flipping her black ponytail over her shoulder as we pack our toolkits. “We’ll be able to shower for another week, at least. Come on, let’s check out the news.” Our wrists ache as the six of us – Ramirez, Xiao, Welch, Koerner, Ortuña, and me – walk single-file through the narrow halls. We pass a woman with the Japanese flag on her uniform, two whispering Brazilians, a gaggle of Spaniards. We only nod to the Japanese woman. President Adamson is in diplomatic talks with the Japanese prime minister right now, so we can afford to be friendly.
    The rec room is filled with the tang of sweat and the babble of five different vidscreens. There are people eating packets of rehydrated kung pao chicken and playing cards, but most are watching the screens. I see images of tanks and soldiers and men in suits flash by in the dizzying tango of a news report.
    “It’s the Israeli-Egyptian border this time,” Swenson, one of our astrophysicists, tells me as I slide onto a chair. “The Egyptians have surrounded it. Their president says he needs proof that they don’t have neutron bombs.”
    “Are we involved yet?”
    “Adamson hasn’t commented.”
    “Just doesn’t want to hurt his chances in the 2052 election,” mutters Xiao.
    “The Egyptians are using this as an excuse,” says Arsenault in his guttural English, puffing on a smokeless cigar. We’ve been on good terms with the French lately, so Arsenault and the rest of his crew are sitting near the American table. I look around and notice that the Egyptians aren’t here. The Israelis are huddled in a corner, fingers clenched, brows together. I remember what my superior told me when I made it into the ISS Bridging Borders program a year ago: “You’ll be representing the United States, okay, Gardner? So you’ll act like every single person up there is your brother or sister, even if their higher-ups are trying to beat the crap out of ours planetside.” Easy in theory. Not so much in practice.
    “Hey,” says Xiao, whipping a deck of cards out of her uniform pocket. “Anyone up for a game of blackjack before night cycle?”
    I shrug. “Why not?”
    “What’ll we bet?” asks Ramirez.
    The idea is in my head before I can stop it. “Our comm minutes. If you go bust, you give them up.”
    “But…” Swenson blanches. “We only get fifteen this week-”
    “So don’t play,” I say, grabbing the deck from Xiao and shuffling. A perk of being one of the best mechanical engineers in the world is the ability to riffle a deck better than a Vegas card shark. Swenson’s eyes go hooded, like a snake’s, and she sits back down. I deal out two cards to her, Xiao, Ramirez, Koerner, Arsenault, and myself. “Remember. Over twenty-one and you’re as good as spaced. Xiao? Hit or stay?”
    “Hit me,” she says, her fingers restlessly twining in her hair, her gaze glued to the vidscreen. I send a card shooting across the table.
    “Hit, captain.”
    Their voices weave themselves into the hum of the news report. “David Ely, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at Stanford, joins us with commentary.” I think of those extra minutes blinking on my comm, of my mother’s tinny voice, piped in from Virginia. Of Cassie’s low, animal-like cooing. Sometimes I think I am forgetting the way it feels to tug a brush through my daughter’s hair. I don’t know how tall she is anymore. “We need you,” my superior said when I asked for leave. “It’s a mess down here, but up there? You guys might be doing something good.”
    “Bust,” says Xiao three rounds later, leaving only Arsenault and me still in the game. He has three cards face-down and one, a jack, face-up. I stare at him. His lips are pursed like an old woman’s.
    “Stay,” he says, not shifting.
    “Sources have not yet found evidence of enhanced radiation weapons.”
    I have a six face-up, a three, four, and seven face-down. Twenty. With four cards and one a face card, he has to be at twenty-one. Or twenty, and dealer loses a tie.
    “Hit,” I say, and deal myself another card, fingers twitching for an ace. Arsenault watches, stone-faced, as I turn it over. It’s a seven.
    “Well?” he says.
    “This just in,” blare the screens. “Egyptian forces have crossed the Israeli border.”
    “Your game,” I say, and get up to leave.

  9. Savannah Wilson says:

    From Here

    From here
    The Earth
    Is a piece of parchment
    Curled with age
    Filled with tales
    Of tragedy
    And triumph
    With room still left
    For more

    From here
    The Ocean
    Is a cloud of confusion
    When the stories
    Put onto the paper
    Just don’t seem
    To make sense
    Where solutions
    Are hidden from the mind

    From here
    The plains and forests
    Are the ink of stories
    Penned onto
    The paper of the planet
    Full of lost lives
    And forgotten tales
    That have finally
    Been found

    From here
    The city lights
    Are a web of inspiration
    New ideas
    Clever stories
    But connected
    By the bonds
    Of discovery

    From here
    Everything is different
    Bound together
    To make the story
    The world

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