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You Can Watch the Earth Do Its Thing

There’s a YouTube channel where you can just marvel at the blue marble



Everyone has seen photos of earth, from the first ever one taken in October 1946, the Earthrise photo by William Anders in December 1968, to the more popular and iconic “blue marble” photograph in December 1972. There is just something about looking at the earth from space and now you don’t need to just have a photograph to marvel at our little blue planet.

Do you know that there is a YouTube channel that livestreams a video of the earth? The official YouTube page of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hosts the live video beam to earthlings from the International Space Station (ISS). Occasionally, the signal gets lost but if you are lucky, you can check out the channel and just watch this blue marble as it rotates on its axis, while the ISS revolves around it.

This started as part of NASA’s High Definition Earth-Viewing (HDEV) experiment, which started in April 2014, and the images are captured in real-time by an external camera module mounted on Node 2 of the ISS. While the experiment has officially ended in October 2019 and the HDEV payload no longer sends images of the Earth, an external camera installed in the ISS continues to send videos. On YouTube and on NASA’s website, you can watch scenes of the earth on daytime, with the clouds and oceans and continents visible, or nighttime, when light from cities all over the world are the only things you can see.

Magnificent desolation. —Buzz Aldrin

Another YouTube channel also streams video taken from the ISS but matched with soothing music. If you’re one of those who like to listen to nonstop lo-fi—yes, that’s a thing!—music on YouTube to relax, then this video of the earth is for you.

There is something incredibly relaxing but equally perplexing about watching the earth do its thing for, say, one hour. That might sound boring but it really isn’t. You wouldn’t know unless you try, right? And when you do try it, just focus on our planet. Don’t do anything else. Just watch. Just take it all in. Seeing our little planet—knowing that you are there somewhere—in the small space it occupies in the vast, ever-expanding universe is quite an experience.

One can’t help but remember the words Buzz Aldrin, the second man to have stepped on the moon, said when he saw the earth from space: “Magnificent desolation.”

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