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Spectacular star trails dazzle from the space station

See the stars a little differently with an exotic view of space and Earth as photographed from the International Space Station.

star trails
Star trails and Earth trails combine for single fascinating image.

With the aid of a camera, a clear night and a long exposure shot, anybody on Earth can photograph star trails. But let's check in with the astronauts on board the International Space Station for a very different look at star trails.

NASA released a series of images last week showing streaks of starlight in space accompanied by trails of light from human-made sources down on Earth.

The photos make it look like the heavens are raining down on the planet. The curve of the horizon separates space from the parallel lines of light on Earth. Parts of the space station hang down into the images.

Star-trail images from the ISS are made the same way they are on Earth, by using a long exposure time. Instead of snapping a single point of brightness, the extended time turns the stars into scenic dashes of light.

The speed of the ISS makes the star trail images look particularly impressive. It's boogieing around in orbit at 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour. It takes just 90 minutes to get around the planet. NASA notes, "astronauts aboard see an average of 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours."

Star trails dominate this view from the ISS.