There’s no more epic way to celebrate the International Space Station’s golden birthday than with a cinematic time lapse.
Brought to Earth by European Space Agency astronaut turned time lapse expert Alexander Gerst, the ESA released its longest continuous time lapse filmed from the ISS yet, in honor of the weightless laboratory’s 20th anniversary on November 20. In just under 15 minutes, Gerst takes viewers on an awe-inspiring tour of our blue dot from 400 kilometers — about 249 miles — above.
Sped up 12.5 times, a reel of roughly 21,375 images taken over the course of three hours makes up the video. Gerst captured the stunning view from the European-built Cupola observatory on October 6, 2018. Viewers begin over Tunisia, passing by Crimea before capturing the urban glow of Beijing. From the ISS, Gerst even recorded lightning from storms, which appear as bright pops of light against complete darkness as half the globe sleeps.