Hurricane Irma has been barreling across the Atlantic Ocean for days, whipping up winds and pelting rain on the islands in its path as it continues toward Florida. It has already broken records and left a staggering amount of destruction behind. The size and force of the storm are difficult to fathom, but aerial views from the International Space Station (ISS) help.
NASA released a new video on Thursday showing an overhead view of Irma as the space station passed over it. Captured by the station’s external cameras, the video depicts a giant swirl of white, with just a few slivers of calm blue at the edges. Part of the space station itself is in the foreground, serving as a point of reference as the video glides over the Category 5 storm. The latter part of the video is in black-and-white because of an issue with the camera’s sensor, NASA explained.
It isn't the space station’s first pass over the storm this week. It also captured views on Tuesday, soon after the National Hurricane Center upgraded Irma to a Category 5 storm, and on Wednesday, as the hurricane made landfall in the Caribbean.
The International Space Station has long offered a unique vantage point from which to view our planet. Astronauts on expeditions to the ISS often share photos and videos with the earthbound public via social media platforms (including Twitter and Instagram) so people can see what they see as they orbit at an average height of 240 miles.
Paolo Nespoli, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency, tweeted a collage of images of Irma, because “one image wasn't enough for what may be the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever,” he wrote. “Stay safe down there.”
His colleague, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, tweeted a trio of images of the storm as well, writing that Irma is clearly visible from his perch at the space station.
Randy Bresnik is the only NASA astronaut currently aboard the ISS, after Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer returned to Earth last week along with Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. Bresnik, now the commander of the space station, tweeted a photo and wrote, “Tonight, far too many people in #Irma’s path and in its wake.”