Astronauts' stunning photos from the International Space Station show Earth's triumphs and tragedies in 2022
Astronauts on the International Space Station share stunning images of Earth from 250 miles up.
From sunsets and moonrises to spewing volcanos and breathtaking deserts, life in space is gorgeous.
The best astronaut photos of 2022 reveal surreal beauty alongside extreme weather and war.
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have a unique view from 250 miles above Earth. They can see both beauty and destruction on the planet below.
"It's difficult to explain because the emotions are absolutely overwhelming. It is an incredible scene of color, of clouds, and land," NASA astronaut Nicole Mann told the Associated Press in October.
"It's difficult not to stay in the cupola all day," she added.
The ISS careens around the planet, completing an orbit every 90 minutes.
That means astronauts see 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.
Orbital sunrises are stunning. The colors spill across the horizon, cutting through the darkness of nighttime Earth and the blackness of space above.
Astronauts also get to see the moon rising and setting above the curvature of the Earth.
Looking down at Earth, astronauts can see even more colors in the mind-bending diversity of our planet's landscapes.
Prominent natural features, like this circular rocky uplift in the Sahara desert, often catch astronauts' eyes.
Another circular structure, in icy and rocky Quebec, comes from a meteor impact during the Triassic period.
It's visible from pretty far away.
Some landscapes appear abstract, like Minnesota's famous lakes at night, which resemble shattered glass or water spilled across a dark table.
Others are simpler, such as Italy and Sicily stretching across the sea, like Michelangelo's fresco of Adam and God reaching for each other's fingertips.
Did you catch the volcano in that last picture? Here's a closer look. Mount Etna is Europe's tallest active volcano.
Preserved areas often feature unique natural landscapes. This national park in Australia features a river cutting through red earth and filling a series of lakes.
Some of the best sights come at night.
At night, astronauts can catch a stunning view of the Milky Way stretching above them. In this photo, a lightning bolt flashes on Earth below.
Astronauts also enjoy regular, stunning shows of the aurora dancing across the north and south poles.
But 2022 wasn't all pretty sunsets and stunning landscapes. Astronauts on the ISS said they could see war unfolding in Ukraine, though they didn't post photos of it.
"At the beginning of the war, the whole country went dark at night," German astronaut Matthias Maurer said in May, adding, "People actually only recognized Kyiv."
That's what he told German broadcaster ARD's "Morgenmagazin" program, according to a translation in Newsweek.
"Then you could also see the impacts in the first days of the war. In Kyiv, you could see lightning at night," as well as the "rockets that hit," he added, according to Newsweek.
Extreme weather battered the world — like Hurricane Ian, which the ISS flew above as it approached Florida.
The ISS often gets a unique view into the eye of a storm. The station also flew over Hurricane Fiona just days after it took out Puerto Rico's power.
Astronauts can also see long-term damage humans have caused. This lake is overrun with red algae because dams and agriculture have drawn so much water from it, and drought has further depleted it.
Astronauts don't spend all day looking out the window, though. They're busy working on experiments and maintenance...
... welcoming new spaceships full of astronauts or cargo to the ISS...
... saying goodbye to other spaceships...
... or simply having fun...
... but they still take time to appreciate the view from 250 miles up.
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