Sunset Over Southern New England As Seen From Space

By Keith Cowing
March 4, 2013
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Sunset Over Southern New England As Seen From Space
Southern New England

Looking out at Earth’s surface from the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts and cosmonauts frequently observe sunglint highlighting both ocean and inland water surfaces.
The Atlantic Ocean, including Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay, along the coastlines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has a burnished, mirror-like appearance in this image.

This is due to sunlight reflected off the water surface back towards the station crew member who took the photo. The peak reflection point is towards the right side of the image, lending the waters of Long Island Sound and the upper Massachusetts coastline an even brighter appearance. Sunglint also illuminates the surface waters of Chesapeake Bay, located over 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the southwest of the tip of Long Island. This suggests that the Sun was low on the horizon due to the observed extent of the sunglint effect.

The time of image acquisition, approximately 4:26 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, was about one hour before local sunset. There is little in this image to indicate that the region was still recovering from a major winter storm that dropped almost one meter (three feet) of snow over much of the northeastern USA less than a week earlier. The high viewing angle from the space station also allows Earth’s curvature, or limb, to be seen; blue atmospheric layers gradually fade into the darkness of space across the top part of the image. Low clouds near Cape Cod, Long Island, and further down the Atlantic coastline cast shadows over the water surfaces, reducing the sunglint in some areas. ISS034-E-48455 (14 Feb. 2013) – high res (0.7 M) low res (66 K)

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