Watch Earth roll by live in HD, streamed from the ISS

Get your relaxing Internet fix by sitting back and watching the Blue Marble roll away in real-time under the orbit of the ISS.

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
2 min read

Typhoon Vongfong as photographed by ISS astronaut Reid Wiseman. Reid Wiseman/NASA

There is a feeling sometimes reported by astronauts when they see Earth from way up above, beyond the Kármán line: that the world is precious and fragile, and that we are all in this together. Former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield described it as a shift in perspective, saying, "You can't stay local when you've lived that global." It's called the Overview Effect, and it's reportedly beautiful and profound. (There's a short film about it here.)

It is probably a feeling that can't be replicated with a computer screen, but there's something deeply zen about watching the Earth roll by from space. We know this because the exterior of the ISS is equipped with four commercial, off-the-shelf high-definition cameras, which take turns streaming a live video feed of Earth for online viewing.

The purpose of the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment, live since April, isn't just beautiful space video, as wonderful as that is.

"The cameras are enclosed in a temperature specific housing and are exposed to the harsh radiation of space," NASA wrote. "Analysis of the effect of space on the video quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide which cameras are the best types to use on future missions."

The system is operated one camera at a time on an automated repeating cycle so that the video follows a location on Earth as the ISS passes over, all with no intervention from human operators. It also drops out relatively frequently due to loss of Ku-band transmission, and it goes completely dark while in the night sections.

If you're working away on a dual-monitor set-up, though, it's a lovely thing to have playing on your secondary screen in the background. You can check out the stream below, or visit the HDEV website, where you can also view a live feed of the ISS's position above the Earth.