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Watching the world go by…

In Ye Olde Days of the early internet, when “tablets” were little pills you took when you had a bad head and bedrooms and dens around the world echoed to the screeching whistles, chirps and beeps of dial-up phone connections (“broadband” hadn’t even been invented yet kids) webcams were seen almost as dark sorcery. Just by clicking on a link you could be magically transported to Somewhere Else, and you could watch a migraine-inducingly low quality jerky video feed of the view from a tower block looking down on somewhere famous, or well known, perhaps a street in Paris or New York, or the shore of a lake, etc.

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Oh how we loved webcams! We spent many happy… minutes… sitting at our PCs straining to make out the shapes of people wandering around Trafalgar Square or somewhere equally exotic before the picture froze or someone just switched it off (or tripped over the lead, pulling the plug out)…

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We truly were living in the future…

My, how things have changed.

Today, as you’re probably well aware, thanks to mega fast broadband connections, faster computers and better software and hardware, the Internet offers countless channels of high quality – even high definition – streaming video. Just with a simple click of a mouse – or, more likely now, a tap of a finger on the touchscreen of a tablet or smartphone – you can watch uninterrupted coverage of cute puppies sleeping, kittens tumbling over each other, or planes taking off from or landing at busy airports. Other channels offer live views of famous cities or landmarks, allowing you to watch thousands of people milling around them like termites. And, of course, more, um, adult channels offer, er, other… views…

Anyway, we now live in a streaming video world, with gazillions of channels and feeds to choose from. And now there’s one more to bookmark, one which will hypnotise you within moments of your first visit, and might become an obsession if you let it…

And where is this magical video coming from? Well, from “up there”, way, way above your head. Incredibly, a camera mounted to the outside of the International Space Station – which whips around the globe once every 90 minutes, travelling at over 17,000 miles per hour – is now streaming live, high definition video of the Earth. Watching the video feed is like sitting on top of one of the space station trusses, with your legs dangling down, just watching the world go by…

I clicked on the link to the website last night for the first time, and it really is hypnotising, you simply can’t drag your eyes away from the screen. And why would you when you are shown views like this…

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That’s beautiful isn’t it? But that’s just one frame, one screen-grab. The joy of the site is that the view changes, every moment, it is literally a camera, pointed down at the Earth, sending back live video, so you see the clouds rolling towards you (or away from  you; the camera switches now and again between forward- and backward-facing). You see coastlines approaching then receding. You see the Sun dropping towards the curved horizon, blindingly bright, throwing beams of silvery light across the screen…

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…then vanishing beyond it, leaving behind a spectacularly-beautiful and impossibly graceful arc of shocking, azure blue…

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…before that too fades away and darkness fills the screen once more…

As if the view itself wasn’t amazing enough, you can follow the ISS as it orbits the Earth thanks to animated maps, which show the ISS’s position over the globe. Of course, this means you can (try to!) identify objects and features on the video feed with objects and features on the chart, spotting the coastlines of the US, Europe and Australia as they approach or fall away behind…

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Be warned though, this is a dangerously addictive site. If you’ve ever wondered how these guys in Wall-E got so fat…

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…it’s because they became addicted to viewing this site! And it’s not just addictive for humans. Here’s Chi staring at the screen, illuminated by “Earthlight”…

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But seriously, this is one streaming video channel worth bookmarking. It’s just magical. A place that will reward your visit with views like these…

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(Please note, I’ve upped the contrast on those pics a little, just to bring out the beautiful colours even better)

By now I’m sure you’re wanting to go take a look yourself, so here’s the link – but be warned, once you’ve started watching, you’ll have a very hard time stopping. So go there, but don’t blame me if your publisher’s deadline is missed, or that school essay doesn’t get handed in on time, or you wake up with your drool-encrusted face lying on the keyboard at dawn tomorrow…

http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/HDEV/

You’re welcome 🙂

 

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UPDATE

Since I posted that earlier today (but not because of it!) it seems like a LOT more people have found out about the camera and are following it and the ISS. I was amazed to have one of my screen grabs retweeted by none other than Professor Brian Cox earlier today, and since then many hundreds of people (likely to be thousands by day’s end, surely) have seen it. Here it is…

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Isn’t that beautiful?

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4 Responses

  1. Oh Wow, now you’ve done it Stu!
    I’ve only just started watching as the coast of Alaska comes into view and already I know, I just know, that that shelf ain’t going to get put up tonight!
    Thank you.

  2. Still watching, 4.5 hours later. Stunning.

    Live streaming video by Ustream

  3. […] Welt staunt über das semi-permanente HD-TV-Bild von der ISS, das neuerdings das HDEV liefert. Auch ein Kurzschluss auf der ISS, das letzte ATV, die Versuche, das Falcon-Video zu retten – […]

  4. Nice screen grabs! Those sunset shots are great!

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