Anybody who's ever wanted to fly over the planet at night and ogle all the lit-up cities will love this time-lapse video from the International Space Station.
UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: I thought as astounding as this video was, it needed a soundtrack.
ORIGINAL: I've been beaten to posting this by the tireless Jason Samenow over at Capital Weather Gang, but it's too good a find to let fall into the cuttings pile. Remember that photo gallery of cities as seen at night from the International Space Station? Well, now there's a video that shows what astronauts see as they cruise over the darkened planet, and it is fantastic.
Science educator James Drake created the short movie by stitching together hundreds of still shots from NASA's Gateway to Astronaut Photograph of Earth, a pretty cool place to kill a few minutes in its own right. Here's a key to what you're seeing: The video begins with the spacecraft gliding above the Pacific Ocean and then buzzing both North and South America, with lightning seen crackling within a dozen storm systems. The sunrise at the end occurs as the ISS nears Antarctica. Drake says that visible landmarks, in order, are:
Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Fransisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the Amazon. Also visible is the Earths ionosphere (thin yellow line) and the stars of our galaxy.
For more killer shots from, and of, space, head on over to Drake's Tumblr, Infinity Imagined.