For over half a century, humanity has had the capability to venture where few men/women had ever gone before: space. Despite lacking the technology to journey too deeply into the endless expanse, astronauts have still witnessed extraterrestrial sights that have stunned them. That said, these most recent anomalies witnessed by astronauts on the International Space Station were right here on earth, but there was one that caught their attention and puzzled experts the most.
25. Strange Discovery By The ISS
Since November 2, 2000, the astronauts and researchers aboard the International Space Station have been tasked with researching and experimenting everything related to space. As one can imagine, they have seen their fair share of anomalies and oddities, sights that would leave the average earth citizen flabbergasted.
That said, nothing could have prepared them for what they witnessed on June 22, 2019. Images captured by the station’s cameras revealed what appeared to be Earth expelling itself into the atmosphere. It was quite clear to all aboard that despite all their amazing discoveries, they were possibly looking at their biggest. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen.
24. The Latest And Biggest Find
Usually, the extraordinary and bizarre sights that astronauts witness aren’t even Earth-related, but on this day things were different. Of course, they weren’t witnessing a UFO attack or anything of that sort. Rather, they were actually seeing some kind of natural phenomenon taking place in a remote peninsula in Russia.
When all was said and done, thought it may not have seemed like it in the moment, what they were seeing had happened before. It was a phenomena that last struck in 1924. What made it unique this time around, however, was that it was the first time it had been documented from outer space. The view from the ISS was enough to blow the crew members’ minds.
23. It Could Have Been Anything
From the International Space Station’s vantage point, it looked as if a cloud of smoke was billowing from our planet. The reason behind this smoke wasn’t very apparent to begin with, and the sight quickly became the talk of the whole station.
When the truth behind the anomaly came to light, experts knew who to turn to about the phenomena. They sent the photos and all the info to a man who wasn’t one to shy away from possible disaster. Knowing the truth about how fragile our planet is has never made him shake on the job. In fact, many of the occurrences he has researched would have left the masses in a panic. That man was Lindley Johnson.
22. Meet Lindley Johnson
The photos were immediately sent down to NASA, who proceeded right ahead and shared the pictures with space fanatics across the world. During this process, the images were also handed over to Lindley Johnson. Far from being your average researcher, he’s NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer.
Johnson switched over from the US Air Force to NASA in 2003 and quickly climbed the ranks. His main focus since being there has been, quite literally, the end of the world. When considering Earth’s end, most of us look to our own treatment of our planet for the answer. Lindley, however, looks to the natural dangers already inherent, as well as external perils. While the smoke photos were alarming, Lindley has seen his fair share of disasters from space.
21. Hurricane Isabel From Space
When you are in the middle of a natural disaster, you can’t really see the full scope of how destructive it truly is. That said, pictures of Hurricane Isabel that were taken by NASA let everyone in on how bad things could have gotten. Isabel was the deadliest in the 2003 hurricane season, as it thrashed its way through the Eastern United States.
Pictures from satellites and modern researchers have been able to see a change in hurricane seasons from over the past couple decades. Even The Guardian has stated that there is evidence showing modern hurricanes are intensifying at a quicker level and causing more damage. That said, these hurricanes are light rainfall compared to one monster floating around in space.
20. Asteroids Are No Rare Sight
When it comes to the safety of our planet, rocks are one of Lindley Johnson’s biggest concerns. We’re not talking about the large rocks you might see out in the desert, for example, but rather the monster rocks we know as asteroids. One of these giants has the capability to turn our planet upside down.
To make matters more alarming, asteroids aren’t even a rare sight. According to research by NASA and Lindley, there are over 2,000 asteroids in our solar system, and if one doesn’t by chance land in our ocean, it can knock out an entire continent. While these space rocks seem like the most dangerous object in the galaxy, there is a wonder out there that can take out our planet and an asteroid with zero effort.
19. Fires Seen Burning From Space
If you find yourself second-guessing the severity of the fires covering Australia at the beginning of 2020, you might want to get a load of this picture. When a fire’s smoke plumes can be seen from above covering an area roughly half the size of Canada, you know things are bad. It’s been estimated that about three billion dollars in damages have been scorched into the country.
According to The Guardian, over a billion animals have been affected by the fires. This isn’t just an Australian problem, but a world problem. With climate change in full effect, people across the globe can expect fires the scale of what Australia has been seeing to become a norm in years to come. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, a similar disaster can be seen from space.
18. Rainforest Damaged Beyond Repair
Another major fire that was painfully visible from space was the Amazon Rainforest fire. According to The Sun, the Amazon Rainforest has been around for 55 million years. Over the centuries, these “Lungs of the World” have played a vital role in making life on Earth function. They’ve done this by absorbing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, and providing a home for millions of animal species.
Studies by IPAM have revealed that vegetation that recovered from past fires was unable to expel water into the atmosphere and absorb carbon for up to seven years. This means that our planet as a whole will be even dryer. However, it should be noted that not everything from space is nightmare-inducing. Sometimes astronauts snap photos of unbelievable beauty.
17. When East Meets West
Pictured below is a shot taken by the ISS of the Iberian Peninsula and the Strait of Gibraltar. While it may just look like two chunks of random land from outer space, what’s really down there are an array of bustling cities, two vastly different cultures, and a very busy sea crossing between Spain and Morocco, Europe and Africa.
For thousands of years, crossing these points of contact between civilizations has brought the world together, and they look even arguably even more beautiful when observed from outer space. But some planetary phenomena look gorgeous no matter what angle they are seen from: on Earth or from the heavens.
16. Auroras From Space
Folks from all around travel far north to places like Russia, Alaska, or Finland just to get what is actually but a mere glimpse of these northern lights, properly known as aurora borealis. While they are breathtaking, it turns out it’s even more extraordinary from up in space. Folks aboard the ISS and other space stations get to see the full extent of the aurora lights.
These unique luminescent glowing swirls are brought about when solar winds disturb the magnetosphere. Who would have ever thought that a disturbance can cause such beauty? And as it turns out, the northern lights are far from the only Earthbound beauty that intensifies from outer space.
15. The Most Romantic Sunset Ever
Sunsets are, of course, all the rage down here on Earth. If you want to create a little romance through something you don’t even have to create yourself, just take a walk on the beach while the sun is setting, or you can even just take a stroll through a field with a love interest at dusk and still reap some awe.
While breathtaking, the sunsets we see looking up from the Earth’s surface are nothing compared to the ones seen aboard the ISS. While seeing the sun fall behind an ocean or mountain is beautiful, researchers aboard the ISS can observe the sun as it sets over the entire planet. The vantage point of outer space can even add new perspective to something previously overlooked.
14. Deserts Don’t Look Barren From Space
Dry, sweltering, and barren are just a few words to describe the deserts across our great planet. There is one desert whose expanses, fame, and notoriety trump all others, and that is the Sahara. Just thinking about being stranded there will inspire someone to grab the nearest cup of ice water.
While the Sahara may look endless from the way we are used to seeing it represented on Earth, it appears completely different from outer space. The desert adds such vibrancy and color to our planet. In fact, another desert looks more like a painting by a famous artist than a wasteland.
13. Kavir Desert Or Historical Painting?
When it comes to the Kavir Desert in Iran, from the view at surface level, it’s just as vast and dry as any other desert. It has all the classic desert elements: vast expanses of sand, a fierce sun beating down from on high, and perhaps even a mirage or two.
Sounds just as terrible as the Sahara or Mojave, right? That said, from space, this desert is probably one of the most unique sites on the globe. Upon first glance, one would swear that Vincent Van Gogh painted it. It looks like it took a great deal of inspiration from Starry Night. Elsewhere outside of Earth, however, deserts can look pretty menacing.
12. The Face On Mars
Remember Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet from the Star Wars film series? It can best be described as a desert world, and that’s exactly what Mars appears to be defined by: a land of sand and rock and not much else. In our present time, we almost know this for a fact.
However, back in 1976, when the first pictures of Mars’ surface were revealed, everything was massively more mysterious. One of the images presented was what appeared to be an ominous face resembling an extraterrestrial. It was the talk of the town for years before finally being revealed as only a mountain. Many pictures taken by the ISS provide a glimpse into events we could never have imagined — including a grim future.
11. Behold A Dying Star
Captured in 2004 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is an image that is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Deceptively exquisite, while it may appear somewhat reminiscent of the pearly white gates of heaven, it is actually an image of a dying star.
The photograph has inspired more than its fair share of “oohs” and “ahs” with its amazing effect of looking like two ladders ascending into a white light. Sadly, something like this will inevitably happen to our sun one day. While that will likely be thousands of years in the future, it’s still a dire thought to consider. Thankfully, some of the sights the International Space Station has captured are far more familiar — and a lot more benign.
10. Our Friendly Space Neighbor
A full moon in the sky can be a true blessing. It can light up an entire desert and make it shimmer when it would otherwise be pitch black. It takes the fear right out of a dark night, and adds poetry and mystery. Many people love to just lay down under a full moon and admire its glow.
While full moons are something that we on Earth only see once in a month, astronauts and researchers aboard the ISS and other space stations can see them creeping over Earth’s orbit on a daily basis. On the contrary, another familiar sight from Earth appears about 100 times more menacing when you’re seeing it in space.
9. The Friendly Fireball
The sun is probably the most bitter sweet presence in our solar system. We can’t live with it and we definitely can’t live without it. When it isn’t busy giving us heatstroke and sunburns, it’s giving us some nice tans — in addition to making the planet we inhabit sustainable, of course.
If you think the sun can look bright outside at two in the afternoon, take a look at this picture of the sun taken by NASA in 2002. This was taken as the sun was expelling some solar eruptions. One solar eruption extended about 30 times more than Earth’s diameter. Another image taken by the ISS can definitely match the sun’s intense beauty — with a potential that’s utterly limitless.
8. The Distant Sombrero Galaxy
Located 28 million light-years from Earth is the Sombrero Galaxy. It was first discovered way back in 1781 by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain. Information about the galaxy is pretty limited, but there are a few details known to us: there is a super massive black hole present in the center of the Sombrero Galaxy that is thought to be one billion times the mass of our sun.
Also, there is a strong source of synchrotron radiation stemming from the galaxy’s nucleus. At the moment, the Sombrero Galaxy remains a giant mystery. With that, some of the best images captured in space are completely set up by researchers like the staff at ISS. So what happens when you take something incredible from Earth and release it into space? They’ve got the answer.
7. Racing Down Star Road
Someone out there is probably scratching their head and thinking that this photo couldn’t possibly be real, but it is. Back in 2018, Elon Musk, the owner of a private space company called SpaceX decided to launch his Tesla Roadster into space.
The reason behind the launch was SpaceX’s newly-created reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. They wanted to prove the vehicle’s viability and decided to test it using Musk’s car. Days after the launch, a number of incredible pictures of the Tesla in space hit the Internet. Yet if all these extraterrestrial wonders seemed far away, on June 22, 2019, the staff of ISS spied something unbelievable on Earth — and even frightening.
6. Raikoke’s Eruption
What astronauts saw on that day was the eruption of the inhabited volcanic island Raikoke, which is an island at the center of the Kuril Islands, disputed between Russia and Japan. This was the volcano’s first eruption in 96 years. The last time any activity had been observed was back in 1924, and long before that, in 1778.
Thankfully, since the island was deserted, there were no casualties and no eyewitnesses of the blast. One might be wondering why a volcanic eruption was something so shocking. It’s because of the force of this volcano and the impact it had. While there have been volcanoes seen from space before, few accomplished what this one did.
5. An Isolated Giant
The unique aspect of this eruption was its sheer power and force. Had it happened in a populated area, who knows what the casualties would have looked like. The 1778 eruption of Raikoke, in fact, was the worst volcanic disaster of its era. It destroyed a good chunk of the island and a lot of people met their fate via falling lava bombs.
While it didn’t destroy any of the island this time around, the volcanic blast still made its presence known, though more to the people in space than the folks down here on earth. When a volcano erupts, it’s normal that a rush of smoke and debris will fly up, but this time projectiles flew a little too high.
4. Blasting Through The Stratosphere
Raikoke’s blast was so strong that the smoke and debris that are usually carried into the sky in fact blasted through the stratosphere and actually went into space. This had never been seen before and definitely grabbed the attention of space experts from around the world.
While the volcano eruption was powerful, it left many wondering what would happen when even larger volcanoes emerged from their dormant state and erupted. The Raikoke volcano was strong, but there are volcanoes out there that easily dwarf it in size and similarly haven’t erupted in a number of years. Raikoke breached the stratosphere, but it is far from the first impressive volcanic eruption to be seen from space.
3. The Eruption of Mt. Etna
On the southern Italian island of Sicily, a monster occasionally belches fire: the notorious Mt. Etna. While the volcano isn’t as powerful as Raikoke, it is in a more populated area and it also produced an eruption that was visible from outer space. However, to distinguish it from Raikoke, its force did not come anywhere near breaking the stratosphere.
Another volcanic eruption that was seen by astronauts was the Copahue volcano in Chile. However, its blast couldn’t match the one produced by Mt. Etna. Most disturbing of all, when everything is said and done, these volcanoes can only produce small samples of what a sleeping giant located underneath the United States can produce.
2. Yellow Stone’s Super Volcano
The volcano that has experts like Lindley Johnson and scientists all over the world concerned is the sleeping giant in Yellowstone National Park. According to sites like VOX, if this volcano were to erupt, it would spell chaos, panic, and catastrophic destruction for most of the United States of America.
Not only would this volcanic eruption easily breach the earth’s stratosphere, but it would shoot volcanic ash in every direction for thousands of miles. It would easily mow through buildings, damage crops, and cut the plug at power plants across the country. Luckily for us, the volcano hasn’t been active in 664,00 years and there is a good chance it may never erupt again — we hope.
1. Beware The Black Hole
There is one enigma in outer space that can’t be matched by any disaster in the known universe: a black hole. While chances are extremely thin that we’ll ever find one in our planet’s path, we’d be out of luck if one ever did. A black hole displays a gravitational acceleration so powerful that there isn’t a known substance able to escape its pull. This even includes phenomena like light.
According to the site The Conversation, the closest black hole to earth is called V616 Monocerotis, and it’s approximately 6.6 times bigger than our sun. One can only imagine the gravitational pull that thing is packing. Even still, there are dangers here on Earth that pose far more immediate threats to our way of life.
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