dark mode light mode Search Menu

Photo Ops from Outer Space

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

Astronauts have been taking pictures of Earth for as long as humans have been going to space. And that means we have a lot of pictures of our home planet taken from high above—more than 4 million, according to NASA, all freely available for scientists, teachers, and even you to browse online.

Researchers often use these photos to track things like how the Earth’s features are changing over time or changes in nighttime lighting in cities. Emergency responders even take advantage of photography of natural disasters to help people during events like hurricanes or wildfires.

If you have ever wanted to get a glimpse of your home from an astronaut’s point of view, here is how you can explore NASA’s massive database to find your favorite spots from space.

A View from Space

You will find the treasure trove of imagery in NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth at https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/. If you select “Search Photos” at the top of the screen, you will be able to sort through the pictures using different tools. “Search by Geographical Feature” lets you search by your hometown’s name, by a geological feature like a mountain, volcano, ocean, and other similar features. If you select “Search by Map Area”, you can either zoom in on a section of a world map that has been photographed by an astronaut or you can select specific longitude and latitude coordinates. After you have the perfect area selected click “Search for Photos” to see your space imagery.

Taking Your Own Out-of-This-World Picture

Maybe you are looking for a newer picture or a slightly different perspective than what the astronauts have taken. No problem. You and your class can take your own photos from the International Space Station (ISS) thanks to the Sally Ride EarthKAM program. Named after the first American woman to go to space, this program has been running since the first ISS expedition.

This outreach program has enabled more than 1 million students to help take photos from space by requesting images from a designated camera set up by the crew on board. The program holds multiple missions a year that your class can sign up for and participate in and request photos of our planet. See previously taken student pictures and learn how to sign up at https://www.earthkam.org/. Explore some of the incredible pictures taken by students and astronauts from space.

Credit: Sally Ride EarthKAM

This image of wildfires in Drysdale National Park, Australia, was taken through the Sally Ride EarthKAM program.

Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams was the first person to witness this eruption of the Alaskan Cleveland Volcano in 2006. His viewpoint from the space station allowed him to spot and call down the eruption to scientists on the ground before anyone on Earth had detected it.

Credit: NASA

The gorgeous blues and greens of southern Florida and the Florida Keys are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 10 crew member aboard the International Space Station. Miami and Fort Lauderdale are visible on the Atlantic side. Everglades National Park and Fort Myers can also be seen.

Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren captured the beauty of the Milky Way Galaxy alongside a lightning strike so bright that it lit up the space station’s solar panels.

Credit: NASA

The bright city lights of Long Island, New York City, and the New Jersey area contrast the dark waters that surround the area in the northeastern United States in this photo taken from a station in 2019.