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Star Trails in Space: Earth Image of the Week May 18, 2012
Astronaut long-exposure image of stars from orbit.
In an image that almost appears to be an abstract painting, Astronaut Don Pettit photographed the trails of stars and tracks of earthbound lights during about 15 minutes of total exposure time in orbit.
International Space Station (ISS) Flight Engineer Don Pettit said his goal was to take a picture unlike any other taken before during his time working in orbit with Russian, American and European colleagues.

And he certainly achieved that feat as evidenced by the image to the right, captured on March 15, 2012.

By taking multiple long-exposures with the digital camera fixed on Polaris, the North Star, trails of the bright stars in the heavens can be seen arching around True North.

Since digital cameras accumulate noise during exposures over 30 seconds in duration, Pettit used a total of 18 images of shorter duration to track the passages of the stars and the lights of Planet Earth streaking below.

The stars oriented far enough from Polaris to rise and set can be seen disappearing behind the planet’s horizon.

The dimmer set of star tracks in the upper portion of the image are actually reflections off the window of Southern Hemisphere stars, shining behind the camera from outside another window of the ISS’s Cupola observation module.

The space station was orbiting about 240 miles above Earth when the 18 images were photographed by the astronaut-operated stationary camera to create this composite.

Full story and image: NASA