We’ve got plenty of images and video from space, but now we’ve got the first Vine of the cosmos, courtesy of astronaut Reid Wiseman, who landed on the International Space Station just a couple weeks ago.
It’s a great condensed view of one ISS revolution around the Earth, which takes roughly 92 minutes. That means astronauts on the ISS are treated to 15 or 16 sunrises in a 24-hour period — like at the end of Chris Hadfield’s explanation about how to puke in space. But on Wiseman’s Vine, you’ll notice that the sun never sets. Because space is magical. And because the space station’s orbit aligned with the line between light and dark on Earth, otherwise known as the day/night terminator line.
The day/night terminator line shifts constantly due to the planet’s axial tilt, or the angle between its axis of rotation and the plane of its orbit around the sun. When the orbit of the ISS aligns with that day/night terminator line, the sun doesn’t set. This only happens at particular times, right before and right after the upcoming summer solstice, when the North Pole is tilted the same amount toward the sun as the angle created between Earth’s rotational axis and its orbital plane — 23.4 degrees. That angle plus the ISS’s orbital angle relative to the equator means that the sun loops around without ever ducking into shadow. Better and more technical explanations are out there, but I think it’s enough to say that this effect is very cool, as is Wiseman, for bring Vine to space. Or rather, space to Vine.
In fact, of all Wiseman’s Vines are pretty charming. I wonder what kind of data the MIT folks who measure emotional responses to GIFs would get from that. I also wonder what Wiseman’s going to put on Vine next. Since Chris Hadfield isn’t on the ISS anymore, I’m glad someone else is willing to post videos of what’s going on up there. Now that NASA has successfully used a laser communication device to beam video from the ISS, I bet and hope we’ll be seeing more. How long will it take Wiseman to start singing? Or perhaps he’s more of a dancer.