Earth Matters

Fish Stories from the ISS

August 19th, 2014 by Mike Carlowicz

Since he rocketed to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 29, 2014, American astronaut Reid Wiseman has been enjoying the sights. He has built an active following on Twitter by sharing photographs of a world he is seeing from space for the first time. Like many first-timers in space, he is also discovering some curiosities that most of us never see from the ground.

On August 18, he tweeted the following photo and comment: “Bangkok is the bright city. The green lights outside the city? No idea…”


Astute Twitter followers, journalists, and bloggers quickly pointed out that @astro_reid was most likely seeing fishing boats, which use bright lamps to draw plankton, squid, and fish to the surface. Several people even pointed to the Earth Observatory and our story about mysterious night lights off the coast of South America. It turns out that Wiseman’s fisherman also appear in the first three seconds of this time-lapse video shot from the ISS as it flew over eastern Asia in January 2014.

A few weeks ago, Wiseman had a similar experience looking out over Taiwan and the coast of China. “Could all those white lights off the coast of Taiwan be fishing boats? Hard to believe.”


Maybe Wiseman will spot some other strange lights, such as the mystery lights of the Australian Outback…the natural gas flares of the Dakotas…the contrail of a rocket…or gamma-ray rich lightning. The natural sights of the planet at night are far more compelling that any UFO stories.

5 Responses to “Fish Stories from the ISS”

  1. azure says:

    NASA needs to apply the distinction between “natural” as in, of nature and human made phenomena. There is nothing “natural” about natural gas flares, fishing boat lights, or rocket contrails (the last is thought by some to be DESTRUCTIVE of the earth’s “natural” atmosphere).

    Only two of the ‘sights’ listed in the article are possibly “natural.” The rest are all a product of human made artificial lights and in the case of gas flares and contrails, human generated air pollution.

    • David In Taiwan says:

      At what point did humans separate from nature? Anything a human does is natural. That includes chrome car fenders or fishing boat lights. Unless you’re some kind of elitist demigod that somehow thinks they’re above and beyond universal nature… ?? If that’s the case, I’d suggest there are better things for you to do with your time than trolling on the internet, wouldn’t you think?
      One with the universe (how could I be anything else?),

  2. Joseph Ng chi wah says:

    Over-fishing might led to a dilmmea , even the view is spectacular and charming. We have to protect our homeland, our only home, Earth.

  3. seamus says:

    What we do is part of nature too. =)

  4. Ashley/OH says:

    Obviously I believe we understand that the lights are man made.