Behold! Incredible photos of cities at night from 400 kilometres above the Earth

Astronauts, is there anything they can’t do?

Don Pettit, an American chemical engineer and NASA astronaut, developed a system for taking clear images of cities at night from, oh, about 400 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. He managed to do this whilst hanging out on the International Space Station between 2002 and 2003.

You may be thinking, I’ve seen plenty of images from space, this isn’t anything new! Au contraire… Prior to Pettit’s system, images like the ones below that were captured by onboard cameras came out blurry because of the speed of the Space Station relative to the Earth’s surface.

Pettit’s innovation was to create a “barn-door tracker” that significantly diminished the effects of orbital motion and enabled astronauts to keep the camera focused on a city while the ISS moved above the rotating Earth.

Have a look at five of our favourite images taken by the illustrious Don Pettit, quite possibly the best astronaut photographer out there.

Hong Kong, population: 7,061,200

Riyadh, population: 6,800,000

Las Vegas, population: 1,951,269

Sao Paulo, population: 19,889,559

Montreal, population: 3,635,571