The Earth, Live.
May 6, 2014 3:07 PM   Subscribe

After being delivered to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX resupply mission, the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) platform was activated on April 30th, providing a live HD stream of Earth for anyone to view.

Exposed to the harsh radiation of low-earth orbit, HDEV is an experiment to test which commercially off-the-shelf HD cameras are best suited to survive the hostile environment, to better inform decisions on future missions.
posted by Static Vagabond (98 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite

HA! I clicked the link and it was looking straight down at Puget Sound! At me! How Cool!
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:09 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Woah. We're moving fast!
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 3:11 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

posted by brundlefly at 3:21 PM on May 6

I love living in the future.
posted by brundlefly at 3:23 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

posted by planetesimal at 3:30 PM on May 6

Oh wow, that's pretty.
posted by figurant at 3:32 PM on May 6

kind of epic. I wrote a proposal to have a camera in orbit in 1984. nice that it's finally happened. for the next camera it would be great to have a wider angle lens. but I'm not complaining - epic and beautiful vista. reminds me of Buckminster Fuller's quote - “I am a passenger on the spaceship Earth.”
posted by TMezz at 3:32 PM on May 6

We need three of these around every planet and moon in our solar system.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]

Okay, this is going to be running full screen on my third monitor at work. All. The. Time.

posted by Mooski at 3:37 PM on May 6

Is anyone able to see anything? It's pitch black on my computer, maybe it's night time?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on May 6

I think so, yes. There's a map to the right showing if the ISS is in daylight or not.
posted by Mooski at 3:44 PM on May 6

Oooohhh night time!
posted by pwally at 3:46 PM on May 6

Yep my timing is also wretched each time I've clicked in, only black or blue. There's a sighting email service but since I've signed up it's be cloudy or the pass has been at 5am.
posted by sammyo at 3:47 PM on May 6

Come on, lil satellite! Come into the light so I can see... probably Siberia?
posted by Sara C. at 3:48 PM on May 6

It's night under the ISS right now, and it's over the Southern Ocean, it's literally about to cross the Pole of Inaccessibility. There's nothing to see
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:48 PM on May 6

Yeah, it'll hit sunrise in maybe 20 minutes?

I didn't see it before sunset but apparently the HDEV is set to automatically cycle between cameras by default, although it can also be commanded by ground control. I'm not even sure it's controllable from the ISS. Interestingly, the grey screens when switching cameras are due to the next camera in the sequence having to be powered on. Each camera is switched off when it's not in use to save juice. Which totally makes sense, but it's not something I'd typically worry about with 4 commercial-grade video cameras.
posted by figurant at 3:54 PM on May 6

Yeah in a half hour it'll be over Asia in the daytime.
posted by pwally at 3:55 PM on May 6

Ahhh I only get a grey box! Come on, switch! I wanna see my home from outer space!
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on May 6

There's a map to the right showing if the ISS is in daylight or not.

Loading TLE vector for for satellite "ISS ZARYA" from NORAD. Please wait...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 PM on May 6

Just wait until someone thinks it's cool to get a thousand maniacs in a field in Scotland to flash their green laser pointers in unison
posted by Devonian at 4:00 PM on May 6

The ISS location map can also be loaded separately here. It's partially Flash based, which may be a problem for some devices. Whatever serves up the location information may also be getting hammered right now.
posted by figurant at 4:02 PM on May 6

WANT more ground/floating satellite receiver stations in the dead zones for Ku-band transmissions.

I want to see city lights at night, too.
And ocean phosphorescence.

I'd also love to know what level of interest they projected would be, and (cough) why their servers went down for most of the first day after the announcement.

Possibly there's more interest than they think.
posted by hank at 4:09 PM on May 6

Oh man, it was right at the cusp of day and night, so the Earth was a nice, cloudy, dark blue.
posted by Redfield at 4:16 PM on May 6

Oh man! It's working now!
posted by Kattullus at 4:18 PM on May 6

Last time I flew from Vietnam to Hong Kong, it took a lot longer than this. Pretty cool.
posted by zachlipton at 4:21 PM on May 6

It looks really rad right now.
posted by Redfield at 4:23 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

Possibly there's more interest than they think.

well, if you look at the bottom of the player window, (if I'm interpreting this correctly) it looks like they're averaging ~17,000 simultaneous connections at any given moment, with 1.76 million total views as of this post...
posted by stenseng at 4:24 PM on May 6

Some of the cameras are noticeably better. This current one is really blown-out.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:24 PM on May 6

I guess sending a tweet to @iss to go out on a space walk to hit the color balance button would not be all that noticed...
posted by sammyo at 4:28 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

But so so cool to see the earth moving along on the other monitor!!!
posted by sammyo at 4:29 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

17,000+ miles per hour, 260 miles up. Zow!
posted by stenseng at 4:31 PM on May 6

But, well, mostly cloudy. Which is generally a good thing as long as not a huge scary spiral.
posted by sammyo at 4:32 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Note the text in the bottom right about accepting cookies at the link. I went and accepted their cookie and the experience got a lot better.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:59 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

this is very cool - I am looking outside at the waning twilight, and the ISS is just about to pass over into sunlight
posted by thelonius at 5:06 PM on May 6

Geesh, would it have killed them to have sound?

I wanted to hear myself yell as it passed overhead.

seriously though this is awesome

posted by prospero320 at 5:28 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

I've been going out whenever the ISS was visible after dusk and watching it -- and making a point to ask anyone passing by "Hey, want to see the space station?"

I recommend this. After all they're paying for it.
People seeing it and asking "how high" and "how fast" are surprisingly excited -- and often wonder how come they'd never heard that this was visible.

(Worth mentioning for the patient listener --- "above the ground" is pretty constantly at 260 miles or so, but it's way over there, so "how far away" is a high school math question. Let's pretend the Earth is flat for the moment. That'd let us consider a right triangle with one side vertical and 260 miles long between ISS and the ground, and we're standing at the the opposite angle, on the horizontal side of the same right triangle, and the angle above the horizon right now is about ____ degrees. So that means it was ____ far away from us just then.)

And going how fast?

(There's probably an app for that. But you don't need one)

Also: What If?
posted by hank at 5:37 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

the ISS spends too much time over water. How boring.

They should have it speed up when it's wasting all that time over oceans.
posted by DigDoug at 5:41 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how much it would cost, but I'll just bet that if the next few probes would send back live streaming video like this, they could make enough to fund the things on AdSense alone.

The crazy thing is, I'm pretty sure the view from, say, Voyager is pretty dull - but I'm doubly sure I would sit and watch it for hours at a time.
posted by Mooski at 5:46 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

Now I can haz space travel?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:07 PM on May 6

BRB, slipping the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:23 PM on May 6 [14 favorites]

4 cheap, relatively common pieces of tech installed on the ISS as an afterthought - and yet, to me, one of the most awesome things ever.
posted by klarck at 6:24 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

Okay, it's over the pacific now, and I take it back. That's still effing beautiful.
posted by DigDoug at 6:24 PM on May 6

I'm pretty sure I saw a lost primeval valley full of dinosaurs when it was over the Himalayas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:30 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how much it would cost, but I'll just bet that if the next few probes would send back live streaming video like this, they could make enough to fund the things on AdSense alone.

Minor note: NASA is forbidden from advertising, by law. But yes, you've recruiting commercials for the military, go figure.

I think someone could start a Kickstarter to raise money for NASA and donate it to the agency, but don't quote me on that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

It was over the Pacific at night and I saw little flickers of light. It took me a moment to realize that it was lightning.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:44 PM on May 6

4 cheap, relatively common pieces of tech installed on the ISS as an afterthought - and yet, to me, one of the most awesome things ever.

This totally. This project should be, like, a huge glorious achievement celebrated everywhere. I had no idea it looked that fast looking down live, and I'm a space nut. Hell even Gravity apparently fucked that up. Truly I think it is badly needed for more of this kind of literal perspective to enter the collective consciousness.
posted by odinsdream at 6:47 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]

I wonder what the bandwidth of Rosetta is. Live images (well, as live as you can get from 37 light-seconds away) of a landing on a comet would be pretty amazing, even if it's just a stream of stills.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:47 PM on May 6

Huh cool...well it's nightime over the Atlantic right now so can't see anything. What do the yellow and white lines on the map represent? I can't seem to figure that one out.
posted by dabug at 6:55 PM on May 6

That shows you its track: where it was over the preceding 1.5 hours and where it will be over the next 1.5 hours respectively.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:59 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Oh thanks, that makes sense now!
posted by dabug at 7:01 PM on May 6

My God, it's full of Earth.
posted by slogger at 7:46 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]

Anyone know if it is possible to watch this stream using something other than their terrible flash player? I really want to watch this in full screen on my TV but it doesn't seem to work.
posted by Poldo at 7:56 PM on May 6

I'm pretty sure it's not Flash, because I use a click-to-use-flash plugin on my Mac and it doesn't show up as Flash. Probably HTML5.

It's only in 480p, so it's not super-high-def. 1080p would be mind-blowing.

I don't know how you get such things on your television, but if I click through to the UStream page for the video feed, my iPad will AirPlay the video to my TV via my AppleTV just fine.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on May 6

How do I fastforward through the "night" portion of the program?
posted by desjardins at 8:09 PM on May 6

For me it's definitely a flash player as I can right click on it to bring up the flash settings. I just tried it under Chrome and it seems to work.
posted by Poldo at 8:14 PM on May 6

I think you can watch Ustream on your TV if you have a smart TV or streaming box.
posted by mantecol at 8:22 PM on May 6

There's a "Best" choice better than 480, if you're looking at

NASA's high definition feed

It may help the image resolution (I saw someone speculate) if you briefly open the ESA page and click the OK button for the ESA cookie; doing that enables the 'oogle map.

I _think_ the circle around the icon for the Station is the size of the visible circle -- that's not a half-Earth we're looking at, from that elevation the horizon still cuts off most of the planet.

I saw a crescent moon and stars in many colors -- all out of focus. Are these cameras using a huge aperture and not getting much depth of field? I was wondering if the fuzzy edge of the "limb" of the planet we see is the thickness of the atmosphere -- or just an out of focus horizon.

Anyone know?
posted by hank at 8:24 PM on May 6

And in parallel with the high tech video:

Ham Video Premiers on Space Station
posted by hank at 8:28 PM on May 6

"I know that I am mortal by nature and ephemeral, but when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia..." - Ptolemy (from Almagest)
posted by mysticreferee at 8:51 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

Uh, the DISH network did this for years. The camera gave out at the end of 2012, but, yeah. I guess this is a nice camera upgrade.
posted by NortonDC at 9:17 PM on May 6

On the one hand it seems really questionable to complain that the awesome SPACE CAMERA pointing at Earth and streaming in real time isn't actually HD but... ok, there is no other hand. But imma do it anyway. That's false advertising! Even the "best" quality isn't even 720p!

Yeah, I complained about the streaming real-time SPACE CAMERA.
posted by Justinian at 9:19 PM on May 6

My mom likes watching the ISS fly overhead. Your earthbound self needs to be close to dusk or dawn so that the ISS is illuminated by the Sun but you are in the dark so that you can see the contrast. And of course it needs to be flying over you, there can't be clouds or even much haze, and it happens really quickly. It takes maybe a minute for it to approach from the west and disappear to the east.

Nasa provides quite accurate information to when you should expect to see the ISS depending on your lattitude, longitude and time - almost to the second.

One time when I was back home me and mom went outside to watch the ISS fly by which it did and then another nearly as luminescent object followed not a minute later along the same path.

I went inside and looked at the internets - what we had seen was the space shuttle giving chase in an effort to dock with the ISS in a V-bar approach, at ~27,500 km/h [17,087.7mph].
posted by vapidave at 9:22 PM on May 6 [7 favorites]

Uh, the DISH network did this for years.

DISH's camera was located on a satellite on a geostationary orbit much further away and while it was a great view of the entire facing part of the planet, it was nothing like what this is.

Also, the technology behind this is far far advanced from what DISH was supplying.

Same concept, different execution and better results.
posted by hippybear at 9:29 PM on May 6

Yeah, I complained about the streaming real-time SPACE CAMERA.

If I were going to complain it'd be that there's only enough bandwidth in the downlink (I assume) for a single stream, so they automatically rotate between the cameras. I'd like to be able to stay on a camera or switch between them at will. But I'm not going to complain so I won't and I didn't. Shut up.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:45 PM on May 6

(That's a jokey shut-up not aimed at anyone in particular.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:30 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Silenced all my life by George_Spiggott
posted by hippybear at 10:37 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Silenced all my life by the vacuum of space.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:03 AM on May 7

About to pass over Italy, the Balkans, and Ukraine in daylight. Hope there's not so much cloud cover.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:10 AM on May 7

This is sublime.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:16 AM on May 7


Woah. Thanks for this link. Amazing.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:13 AM on May 7

This is amazing. Mindblowing how the Earth seems so huge and so tiny all at once from up there.
posted by NMcCoy at 2:24 AM on May 7

Pretty cool video images, puts our world into view
posted by Anistock at 4:36 AM on May 7

This is ...unbelievable! Also, realtime meteo on some pass :D ...and I wonder..will we be able to see thunderstorms during nights?
posted by elpapacito at 5:50 AM on May 7


(it just became daytime)
posted by mrbigmuscles at 6:12 AM on May 7

It looks like it's passing over northeast Ohio now. That thick gray mat of clouds looks very familiar.
posted by slogger at 6:22 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Nasa provides quite accurate information to when you should expect to see the ISS depending on your lattitude, longitude and time - almost to the second.
This is true, but the sighting information at Heavens Above is even better - there you also can get a prediction for peak brightness and a star chart showing the predicted path, and you can look up all that info for more satellites.
posted by roystgnr at 6:23 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

What's that grayish blip above the earth in this image? (screen shot from 9:43 am, today)
posted by morganannie at 6:44 AM on May 7

I swear someone is going to come in here and be all like "That's the moon, dummy" and I'm going to feel really silly.
posted by morganannie at 6:53 AM on May 7

For Android users, there's this neat (ad-supported) application that makes it easy to point around in the sky to find the ISS as it flies over.
posted by odinsdream at 8:56 AM on May 7

Hm, it wasn't until it passed over my house (more or less) while on the down-looking camera that I realized that the map and the video are out of sync. The video trails the map by a number of seconds and a couple of hundred miles, probably because of buffering at various stages.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 AM on May 7

Anyone know more about the source image resolution? I imagine the limiting factor on the ISS is bandwidth to Earth.

The "Best" stream Ustream is pushing is 2500kbps; I'm guessing that's 720p. FWIW Twitch does 720p at 2500kbps, Youtube Live's 720p is 2000kbps. Both include audio. There's probably some way to get ahold of the underlying stream URL and play it with a real player like VLC instead of Ustream's terrible Flash player. I can't tell if I'm seeing black or grey because Ustream is broken, the ISS feed is down, or we're just on the night sky at the moment.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on May 7

Nelson, we're over the Atlantic coast of Africa and I think it's night there now. :7)

Space is big /
Space is dark /
It's to find /
A place to park. /
- Source forgotten
posted by wenestvedt at 10:46 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

The Reddit discussion has more information, including a link to this article about space bandwidth. Apparently there's a doohickey in geosynchronous orbit providing bandwidth for things in low earth orbit. "One minute on TDRS’s highest bandwidth, which is 300 megabits per second, costs $139"

The Reddit nerds also tried to find the actual stream URL and ran into some nonsense Ustream is doing where they keep changing the URL so you can't use the stream outside their terrible Flash viewer. The 480p stream is 1300kbits/s, "best" is about 2300kbits/s so I'm going to stick with my guess it's 720p. Although with the spinning blue circle "loading" icon on it all the time, it's not so great. I mean seriously, we can get live video from space, but Ustream can't manage to deliver it over the Internet reliably. The future is both awesome and awful.
posted by Nelson at 11:02 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

The Reddit nerds also tried to find the actual stream URL and ran into some nonsense Ustream is doing where they keep changing the URL

Yes, I went looking for the stream URL earlier found the same thing. Easiest way to see it on a Mac is in Safari's "Show Page Resources" view under the Develop menu.

If this were NASA it'd be offensive since it belongs to us, but this is the ESA streaming under some arrangement with a private company, and I don't know how UStream monetizing it since there are no ads; perhaps either ESA or SpaceX is paying them for the bandwidth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:16 AM on May 7

Watching the ESA map I have convinced myself that the line drawn around around the ISS is meant to show the horizon -- the relatively tiny circle of the Earth that the cameras can see
from that altitude -- because the area delimited warps appropriately when the ISS is closer to the poles. The map projection they're using is Mercator or some variant.

I wish they had a small globe with a dot on it that could be displayed in the corner of the expanded camera window.

I also wish someone would post predictions for when the camera should be able to see the moon near the horizon. I agree with the screencapture posted earlier -- I think that's the moon very close to the horizon.

Why is nobody live-blogging these camera streams? (grin)
posted by hank at 12:05 PM on May 7

"... The video imagery is encoded into an Ethernet compatible format for transmission to the ground and further distribution. In this format, the video can be viewed from any computer connected to the internet.

The HDEV does not record video on board the ISS, all video is transmitted to the ground real time; any desired recording of the video occurs as ground operations...."

Mission page description

No contact info there. I wonder if they're reading here, or otherwise aware of the questions people are asking. Hope so.
posted by hank at 12:13 PM on May 7

I've been going back and forth with this since the morning and I can't get over it.

Space Webcam.

And it's going so fast.

And the flight path happened to be just right, like, 20 minutes ago, so I had a chat window open to a friend in Brazil and we were chatting while watching and I waved to him and shortly afterwards he waved to me.

And and and.

This is beyond awesome.
posted by seyirci at 1:16 PM on May 7

You can also watch the NASA feed of the ISS, including interior video and audio (when the crew is working) and some exterior shots as well. They are sleeping and it is over night time at this moment. (During "loss of signal" periods, viewers will see a blue screen.)

You can monitor the crew's schedule and stream the video here

direct link to ustream
posted by Sprocket at 1:31 PM on May 7

No contact info there. I wonder if they're reading here, or otherwise aware of the questions people are asking. Hope so.

Yes, they're reading this on the ISS, but keep in mind that if you ask a question they have to write the answer on a board and send an astronaut out EVA to hold it in front of the camera. So make it count.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:00 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Take two screenshots as quickly as you can, of something with texture like a cloudscape.

Open each with something like Graphic Converter

Set them side by side, overlapping, until you get a portion so can view as a stereo pair.

This is incredibly exaggerated, it's as though your eyes were as far apart as the ISS traveled between screenshots. I've done this often taking photos from an airplane window.

You get a _very_ exaggerated depth perception. It's amazing. You can see the multiple layers of clouds.

If you like this stuff you know how to do it. If not, search for "lorgnette stereo viewer" (they're cheap plastic lenses that make it easier to fuse side by side pictures.)
posted by hank at 4:04 PM on May 7 [5 favorites]

I just missed the transition from day to night because I took a moment to read the comments here. Holy, that was fast.

A couple minutes ago it switched to a different camera and I saw the glowing horizon above a black Earth. So. Cool.
posted by quiet earth at 4:25 PM on May 7

I went inside and looked at the internets - what we had seen was the space shuttle giving chase in an effort to dock with the ISS in a V-bar approach, at ~27,500 km/h [17,087.7mph].

That may well have been the same mission I looked up just after dusk about three years ago -- STS-133, Discovery's last launch. If so, I saw it a bit later in the mission though: I knew there were a mere handful of shuttle missions left (two, in fact), so I figured I better gawk while the gawking was good.

I found myself standing on a street corner watching a spacecraft hurtling over the north-western horizon and a space station trailing it maybe forty seconds behind. A passerby noticed that I was looking up and paused to ask what I was seeing. I told her, and by the time the ISS and the Discovery were vanishing to the southeast, we had a little knot of four or five people who were marvelling at the miracle of modern times before we parted ways.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:19 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Man, I have a knack for starting the stream when it's in the night side.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:35 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Good !
posted by rafaelam at 7:08 PM on May 10

Wow, Russia dissolving its partnerships with NASA will definitely be a boon to the domestic private space ventures.
posted by planetesimal at 1:38 PM on May 14

Possibly also a boon to southern NM economy, since there is a spaceport there already.
posted by hippybear at 8:15 PM on May 19

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