NASA astronauts have shared exquisite photographs and videos of the Earth’s facade from space for years, but today we’re getting a much better look with the release of the first ever full-color HD footage taken from the ISS. You can even see the cars moving in the video and in full color.
In December 2013 and January 2014, Russian astronauts mounted UrtheCast’s ultra high-definition camera, Iris, onto the exterior of the ISS. Constantly facing “down” toward Earth, Iris captures 60- to 90-second full color 4K video with 1-meter resolution using a row of image sensors arranged perpendicular to the station’s flight path. The resulting video is so clear, you can pinpoint the individual cars driving on the highway in Beantown.
These snippets are just teasers, with UrtheCast hoping to live stream 4K video from Iris beginning sometime this summer. You can already get a real-time view of Earth from space, though, as NASA has been live-streaming HD footage of Earth from its HDEV cameras, attached to the ESA’s Columbus module on the ISS, since April 2014. The footage is nowhere near as crisp as the videos just released by UrtheCast, but it does provide a great look at Earth whenever you need it (unless the station is on Earth’s night side).