While you’re curled up comfy in your bed each night, the crew of the International Space Station is getting unrivaled views of our planet. For anyone wishing they could see what the astronauts see, here are recent videos of the Earth at night taken from space.

These spectacular videos feature city lights piercing the darkness like shining beacons announcing the extent of human habitation. But they also include incredible natural phenomena — such as ethereal auroras, shimmering lightning, and the silvery Milky Way — which surpass anything created by man.

These videos are actually compilations combining hundreds of still images in order to give a good approximation of what the ISS crew sees as they fly over the Earth. Most of them are taken in sequences of one frame per second, closely resembling the true speed of the station in orbit.

U.S. East Coast

This video from Jan. 29 features glowing nighttime lights along the Atlantic Coast of North America. Starting near the Gulf of Mexico, the ISS passes over recognizable cities such as New Orleans, Jacksonville, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City. With the aurora borealis shining in the background, it ends with a view of Newfoundland and northern Canada.

Southwest Canada and Auroras

The greenish haze of the Northern Lights lingers over shining cities in Canada in this video from Jan. 25. Passing near the border of British Columbia and Washington state, the sequence travels across Vancouver Island and reaches southern Alberta, near Calgary.

Mexico to Canada Express

Traveling across the U.S. in less than a minute, this video from Jan. 30 starts in northwestern Mexico. From there, it passes over San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth before plunging through the Great Plains states. The outline of Michigan is easily spotted as the ISS flies over Chicago and continues to the east coast of Canada.

Northern Lights

The ghostly aurora borealis is prominently featured in this video from Jan. 26. The ISS travels over North Dakota, passing to central Quebec. But the most captivating aspect of this sequence is not the glowing cities but the dancing fires of the Northern Lights.

Central Plains at Night

Scattered like hundreds of campfires, the nighttime lights from many Great Plains cities glow in this video from Jan. 30. Starting near the U.S.-Mexico border around Texas, southwestern cities such as Phoenix and El Paso can be seen. The next brightest specks are Oklahoma City and Tulsa, followed by Kansas City. Last up is the blazing metropolis of Chicago with Cincinnati also seen to the east.

Aurora Over the Pacific

This video from Jan. 25 shows the dark Pacific Ocean, lit only by a strange ribbon of green – the Northern Lights. This aurora arises when charged particles emanating from the sun hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere, glowing in the process. This sequence was taken just southwest of Vancouver Island.

Storms and Milky Way Over Africa

This amazing sequence from Dec. 29 flies over much of Africa. Starting near southeast Niger and making its way toward the South Indian Ocean, near Madagascar, the ISS spots dozens of thunderstorms across the continent. But the most spectacular sight is the creamy Milky Way, seen as a white band slowly coming up over the horizon beyond the limb of the Earth just before sunrise.


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