An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph while flying over Asia and looking southeast toward the horizon. Astronauts have unique opportunities to photograph Earth from various angles while orbiting in the thermosphere layer of Earth’s upper atmosphere.
In the foreground we see Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. The lake’s main sources of water come from the Ili and Karatal (also Qaratal) Rivers. The Ili River Delta is a megafan deposit that forms a conical shape along the shores of Lake Balkhash. The cloud-covered Tian Shan Mountains of northwest China feed snowmelt waters to the Ili River and Lake Balkhash.
Set against the darkness of space, the Moon appears to hover over the landscape. Astronauts on the ISS see the same lunar phases as we do on the ground. The steep color gradient in the upper third of the photo marks the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and is known as the limb. The Moon does not have a gradually darkening limb because it lacks an atmosphere; the lunar limb appears simply as a sharp demarcation between the surface and the darkness of space.
Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-2035 was acquired on June 19, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 116 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Andrea Meado, Jacobs Technology, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.