LIVE views of Earth from space are now available to anyone with an internet connection. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) bring us live views of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) daily, courtesy of the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) Project. When we watched the stream during the morning Eastern time, we were able to see astronauts outside the station adjusting the cameras and doing other tasks!
We actually found four places where you can view the live stream along with pre-recorded streams when the broadcast goes dark during the night cycle and when the team is cycling cameras or performing other tasks (aliens?). Anyway, according to Space & Universe Official, the station does not broadcast video for half of its orbit cycle of 90 minutes. Yes, the ISS orbits the earth once every 90 minutes, traveling over 17,000 miles per hour.
Here are more interesting facts about the HDEV Project and the ISS.
The HDEV Project began in 2014 in order to test the effects of HD video transmission in space.
The ISS travels at 17,153 miles per hour and orbits the earth every 90 minutes.
The altitude of the ISS at this writing is 256 miles above the earth.
The ISS sits at the edge of earth’s atmosphere in the layer called the thermosphere.
Every 45 minutes the station is on Earth’s night side and the broadcast is paused.
The NASA website has a Google Map and a satellite feed that tracks the position above earth so you can see where it is in real time.
The HDEV provides multiple viewing angles using 4 cameras oriented to different positions: directly down, forward, and 2 rear facing.
The four HDEV cameras are commercial grade and are encased in pressurized, temperature controlled housing.
If you know where the ISS is, you can usually see it as a fast moving star in the night sky for about 6 – 10 minutes.
An independent Kickstarter project has developed an at home tracker called ISS-Above which you can purchase and use to know when the ISS is near you as well as cast images to your television or computer. Visit their website to learn more here.
- While the HDEV collects beautiful images of the Earth from the ISS, the primary purpose of the experiment is an engineering one: monitoring the rate at which HD video camera image quality degrades when exposed to the space environment (mainly from cosmic ray damage) and verify the effectiveness of the design of the HDEV housing for thermal control.
- The cameras are programmed to cycle from one camera to the next, and only one camera can work at a time. As they cycle, each camera must turn off and the next camera turn on before the HD video starts, taking about 8 to 10 seconds to change. Through this cycling, comparable data can be collected on each camera; while also providing, as a bonus, different Earth viewing perspectives.
- The University of Bonn in partnership with the German Space Agency (DLR) is implementing the “Columbus Eye” program based on the HDEV streaming video. A webpage is in place (http://columbuseye.uni-bonn.de/ in German) that incorporates the HDEV UStream video and describes the Columbus Eye project, which will leverage ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst educational activities in space.
NASA HDEV Direct Feed
Full details about the HDEV Project can be found on the NASA website.
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