Space Station 20th: longest continuous timelapse from space

Watch in



Captions and subtitles are available (automatically generated by YouTube) - select your language using the YouTube player controls








Since the very first module Zarya was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 20 November 1998, the International Space Station has delivered a whole new perspective on this planet we call home. Join us as we celebrate 20 years of international collaboration and research for the benefit of Earth with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s longest timelapse yet.

In just under 15 minutes, this clip takes you from Tunisia across Beijing and through Australia in two trips around the world. You can follow the Station’s location using the map at the top right-hand-side of the screen alongside annotations on the photos themselves. As the map is a two-dimensional representation of Earth’s globe the ground track of the Space Station appears to be wavy.

This timelapse comprises approximately 21 375 images of Earth captured by Alexander from the International Space Station orbiting at 400 km altitude and shown 12.5 times faster than actual speed. The images were taken from the European-built Cupola observatory on 6 October 2018.

At 28 800 km/h it only takes 90 minutes for the weightless laboratory to make a complete circuit of Earth so the video shows the world passing from day to night and back again twice. The darker regions on the map shows where night is on Earth.

As the Space Station flies into the night the solar wings rotate to get ready to capture the next rays of sunlight when the orbital outpost moves outside of the shadow of Earth. On the right is Japan’s cargo spacecraft HTV-7 that was docked with the International Space Station until 7 November 2018.

Numerous flashes of light can be observed at night time from around 02:00, this is lightning from storms and is common on our planet. Stars can be seen rising above the horizon through the faint glow of the atmosphere that is still illuminated by the Sun.

The white panels visible top left from 05:30 are the International Space Station’s radiators that pump ammonia to exchange heat and keep the facilities and astronauts inside at the right temperature.

At 06:55 the International Space Station flies over Europe starting with Portugal and Spain. Each new orbit of Earth sees the Space Station fly slightly more to the west than the orbit before.

Music is Orbital Horizons, an original composition by Los Angeles-based musician Matt Piper.

Participate in further Space Station celebrations via social media using hashtag #SpaceStation20th.

You can also follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media and the Horizons blog

Rate this

  • Currently 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (119 votes cast)

Thank you for rating!

You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!

Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!