Fishing boats seen from space look like a galaxy on Earth

An intriguing photo taken from the International Space Station finds fishing boats far below looking a lot like a cluster of stars.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

Fishing boats seen from space
Fishing boats sparkle when seen from far above. ESA/NASA

We are in a golden age for space photos, full of stunning Hubble images of faraway galaxies and glowing views of sun glinting off hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan.

You might mistake a new photo captured by European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti for being another in a series of views out into the wide universe. Taken from the International Space Station and featured today, Tuesday, the image shows an elongated cluster of bright lights, spread out across a black background. Though they look like stars, the lights are from fishing boats seen against a dark sea.

NASA sees dramatic Earth weather from space (pictures)

See all photos

The space station was about 250 miles above the Earth's surface when Cristoforetti looked down and the boats caught her eye. Fishermen use the lights to attract a variety of fish species. A layer of cloud cover lends a hazy edge to the lights.

Lights from fishing boats have attracted attention in the past. A satellite image from 2013 showed mysterious lights, far from any town, off the coast of Argentina. NASA soon identified it as an image of boats attracting a particular species of squid by using bright lights.

Cristoforetti's picture shows how looking down on Earth can sometimes be just as fascinating as peering out deep into space.