Time-lapse videos of Earth capture line between life and death

Astronaut Alexander Gerst combines more than 12,000 photos taken about the International Space Station in 2014 into a collection of spellbinding videos that show our lively planet in gorgeous HD.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

Auroras abound in the ESA's time-lapsed view of Earth from space. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

We've already taken a look at some of the best still photos captured of the Earth from space in the past year, but high-quality video footage of our world from above can be harder to come by. Enter European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who has gifted all of humanity the beautiful compilation of time-lapse HD videos below, shot during his six-month stint on the International Space Station.

The six-minute video is actually created from combining 12,500 images taken at regular intervals by cameras that Gerst often set up to document experiments and docking procedures. Gerst's mission aboard the ISS ended in November.

Images of auroras abound in the video below, as do spellbinding shots of humming cities at night, storms and flashes of lightning, all captured as the space station sailed overhead, traveling as fast as 17,000 miles per hour. Also keep an eye out for the eye of a tropical storm, a few fascinating docking and detachment operations with visiting spacecraft, as well as a nice token outward-looking time lapse of the Milky Way.

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But my favorite thing among all these thousands of images is the ever-present greenish glow of the edge of our home planet's atmosphere, protecting us from the vacuum of space and from the punishing rays of the sun, also captured in blinding time-lapsed sunrises in the video. That emerald line, like everything else Gerst shares with us, is a stark reminder of just how tiny and fragile the vibrant envelope we live within is against the backdrop of a cold, unforgiving universe.

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 will be to watch this video anytime I have a bad day and be thankful that I not only get to live inside that beautiful green bubble but also that I live among others audacious and brave enough to leave it and send back images like these, so that we may be more aware of our great fortune (and in 4K, even). Happy New Year!