Alexander Gerst was a geophysicist in Germany before the European Space Agency picked him to become an astronaut in 2009. That background made him well-suited for this year's "Blue Dot" mission on the International Space Station, a six-month scientific program designed to "improve life on Earth or prepare for further human exploration of our solar system," according to the ESA.
During the mission, which lasted from May to November, Gerst worked on experiments in physical science, biology, human physiology and radiation, and he was also responsible for docking spacecraft, unloading cargo and other general space-station chores — including a spacewalk. While he was busy, though, he often set up a camera to automatically take photos of Earth below. And now the ESA has used 12,500 of those photos to produce the ultra-HD time-lapse video above.
The six-minute clip may seem long by Internet standards, but it squeezes a lot of Earthly delights into 360 seconds. "Marvel at the auroras, sunrises, clouds, stars, oceans, the Milky Way, the International Space Station, lightning, cities at night, spacecraft and the thin band of atmosphere that protects us from space," the ESA suggests, noting the video should be watched in 4K resolution "for the best effect."
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