The electric eye of a cyclone, viewed from space

Images of Cyclone Bansi taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station show an eye aglow with lightning.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr

NASA's Earth Observatory/NASA JSC/ISS

Tropical Cyclone Bansi, which raged from January 11 to January 19, 2015 over the Southern Indian Ocean, affecting Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues, has been captured in a stunning image by Expedition 42 astronauts aboard the ISS.

Cyclone photos taken from above usually show a large swirl of cloud circling a hollow central core -- the cyclone's eye. In the dead centre of the eye region -- which is generally 30-65 kilometres (20-40 miles) in diameter -- is a region of calm. But the walls of the eye are raging, towering thunderstorms, the most severe weather in the cyclone.

Because these images -- taken on January 12 -- were snapped at night, the fury of those storms is highly visible, with lightning lighting up the eye. By the time the photos were taken, just a day after the cyclone had formed, Bansi had reached tropical cyclone strength -- wind speeds of over 185 kilometres per hour (115 mph).

The two images were taken using a Nikon D4 digital camera with a 28mm lens and a low-light setting to accentuate the contrast between the clouds and the bright lightning. In the second image, the Earth's airglow can be seen wrapping the horizon.

You can see more photos of Earth taken by astronauts on NASA's Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth website.

NASA's Earth Observatory/NASA JSC/ISS