Trying to take a snapshot of the Earth from aboard the International Space Station -- let alone a series of them -- is tricky business because they're both rotating at some pretty impressive camera-blurring speeds.
So how do you capture lightning flashes down on Earth with the clarity seen in a new, seven-second video from the European Space Agency? By using the Nightpod camera stand, that's how.
The Nightpod is a special camera stand mounted in the cupola of the ISS that tracks a specific point on Earth as it zooms around the planet at 28,800 km/h (about 17,895 mph), according to the space agency. By compensating for both the rotation of our planet and the ISS itself, it allows cameras to snap super-sharp pictures free from the blur that would otherwise ruin the shots.
"To calibrate the motors, an astronaut enters the Space Station's altitude, as well as its yaw, pitch and roll," according to the Nightpod website. "These parameters change in orbit but are readily available to astronauts on the Space Station computers. After calibration, all the astronaut has to do is point the camera at the target, release the shutter and Nightpod will automatically compensate for the movement of the Station, keeping the subject steady in the camera's viewfinder during its exposure time."
In the case of the video below, the ESA stitched together 49 Nightpod-aided images of an electrical storm above eastern Romania, according to the Daily Mail. The shots were taken by astronaut André Kuipers from the ISS in June 2012, although the video montage was released by the ESA just last week. Kuipers is the Dutch astronaut who brought the Nightpod camera mount to the ISS .