The International Space Station (ISS) astronauts have a unique perspective of Earth because they are orbiting at a height of around 420 kilometers (261 miles) above the Earth. Sometimes there are breathtaking auroras, and other times there is something more… mysterious.
Samantha Cristoforetti, an astronaut with the European Space Agency (ESA) who is used to having fun in space, shared what she called an “intriguing sight” on Twitter yesterday: a brilliant dot that appeared to be blazing in the Negev desert in southern Israel.
Daytime passes rarely provide beautiful views of the lights twinkling away on Earth, but nighttime passes produce stunning, though sometimes unsettling, vistas of such lights.
“Amazing sight! A dazzling speck in the Negev desert It’s so strange to see artificial lights during the day!” Tweets from Cristoforetti.
What then is she observing? Cristoforetti asserts that the white speck visible in the brown desert is “a concentrated solar power plant, one of the methods for harvesting solar energy. has one of the tallest solar power towers in the world!”
With a height of over 250 meters (820 feet), the Ashalim solar thermal power station in the Israeli desert is one of the tallest solar power towers in the world. Like an extreme version of those folks who use foil cones to reflect more sunlight to tan their faces, it is encircled by a sea of 50,000 mirrors that concentrate the sunlight to the tower.
The ISS needs an enormous number of reflective mirrors to gather enough light for it to be visible throughout the day. Unfortunately, it needs specific conditions for people on Earth to be able to see the astronauts working on the ISS.
A German photographer captured the ISS in March 2020 from his home. Possibly for the first time ever, an astrophotographer in Germany was able to capture two astronauts during a spacewalk in March of this year.