The title of this post is actually a quote from 2001: A Space Odyssey and comprise Commander Bowman’s final recorded transmission as he approached the massive Monolith located between Jupiter and one of its moons, Io. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a website showing videos taken from the International Space Station (ISS) that shows just how space is “full of stars” and this is a link that we should frequent often.
Due to light pollution and our atmosphere, we never get to see the vast amount of stars in the sky like astronauts do and while I’ve seen thousands of hours of real time space coverage from the ISS, I was always upset that they never trained their cameras on the sky itself to let us see what the astronauts see. My frustration is now over!
I was first tipped off to a series of videos that NASA and the ISS have published showing the star filled sky by Bad Astronomy and then found the link to the whole collection of the NASA videos.
A disclaimer for the videos I have linked to: They are provided courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center and can be found at this link – http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Videos/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/
There are three links below that you can use to view these videos but keep in mind they are high resolution and will take a while to download.
Amidst the vast array of stars, there are objects which appear to be non-stellar that will be obvious to individuals even if they are not familiar with the night sky and the most prominent is the Andromeda galaxy. This is our closest neighboring galaxy at around 2.5 million light years away and I was amazed at how easily we can see it with the camera in space. On earth we can see the fuzzy nature of the Andromeda galaxy with our naked eyes but only from a true dark sky location (no man-made light pollution, clear sky and a new moon). Even if you live in a city, you can see details of the galaxy with binoculars or a telescope but I had no idea this galaxy was so easily viewed with the naked eye in space. Below are two screen captures each taken from the first two videos above and I superimposed a red circle around the Andromeda galaxy.
In the following screen capture you can see the M33 galaxy (3 million light years away and shown with red circle) and a star cluster NGC 752 (located 1,300 light years away and shown with a green circle). Even though I have a large telescope (10” Newtonian Reflector), these objects are impossible for me to see due to light pollution but these elusive objects are easily seen in these videos.
I consider myself an amateur astronomer and was someone who has been fascinated with the night sky since a child so I know how to navigate through the constellations better than most but even I had trouble picking out the constellations with such a full field of stars that these videos showed! It is truly magnificent, humbling and inspiring to see how vast our cosmos is when viewed without the filters we experience on Earth.