Saturday, October 1

Astronaut reveals “intriguing” bright light source on Earth | Digital Trends Spanish


Looking out from the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth recently, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti saw an “intriguing” bright light in the middle of a desert.

NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti

Sharing several photos of the strange sight, the Italian space traveler noted how unusual it is to see a bright spot like this during the day.

After doing some research, he was able to confirm that the light was coming from a tower at a solar thermal power plant in Israel’s Negev desert.

“Intriguing sight! A bright spot in the Negev desert,” Cristoforetti tweeted to his million followers. “So unusual to see man-made lights on day passes! It is a concentrated solar power plant, one of the technologies to obtain renewable energy from the Sun. With one of the tallest solar power towers in the world!”

Intriguing sight! A bright dot in the Negev desert…so unusual to see human-made lights in day passes! It’s a concentrated solar power plant, one of the technologies to get renewable energy from the Sun. With one of the world’s tallest solar power towers! #MissionMinerva pic.twitter.com/MFbCpXpxmG

— Samantha Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) August 25, 2022

The Ashalim solar thermal power plant spotted by the ISS astronaut comprises more than 50,000 computer-controlled heliostats, or mirrors, with a 250-meter-tall solar power tower at its center.

The mirrors track the sun, reflecting its light into a boiler at the top of the tower that produces steam to power a turbine. The plant reportedly produces enough power to power around 70,000 homes.

Below is a closer image of the plant as seen on Google Maps:

A solar thermal power plant in Israel, seen from space.
Google in English

And here is an image of the tower captured from the ground:

  Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Plant.
Iskra Piotr/Creative Commons

During their downtime, ISS astronauts like to head up to the station’s seven-window dome module for incredible panoramic views of Earth and beyond. Some, like Cristoforetti, like to grab one of the station’s Nikon DSLR cameras to capture some of the extraordinary scenery.

New space station inhabitant Thomas Pesquet was particularly helpful with the camera, going out of his way to give himself the best chance of taking some of the best shots during his stay.

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