Turn off the lights, André will be watching

André in Cupola
30 March 2012

Are you turning off the lights in your home this weekend for Earth Hour? ESA astronaut André Kuipers will be watching that you do from the International Space Station.

Earth Hour is a world effort to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. At 20:30 local time on Saturday, people all over the world will be turning off non-essential lights. World Wide Fund for Nature ambassador André Kuipers and ESA are doing their part.

Night lights in Europe

World energy consumption has increased tremendously in recent years. This is strikingly illustrated by the amount of light produced by humans that is visible from space. The animation made from two night-time satellite images shows how much brighter Europe has become in just eighteen years.

Astronauts on the International Space Station have the rare opportunity to see our planet from far above, without boundaries and in its complete beauty. André calls our world ‘Spaceship Earth.’ From space it is clear how beautiful and fragile our planet is.

André took this video of Aurora Australis from the European Cupola module in the Space Station. The beautiful phenomenon is caused by bursts of particles from the Sun pouring down Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere.

Swarm

To understand auroras, we need to look at Earth in ways that humans cannot. Satellites can look at our atmosphere, ice and land in ways that are impossible with the human eye.

Swarm, a new trio of ESA satellites being launched this year, will track our planet’s magnetic fields. They will provide the best survey yet of the protective magnetic field shielding us from solar winds.

The mission will also offer new insights into Earth’s interior.

ESA is committed to observing Earth from space – our satellites have been sending data to scientists since 1977 to monitor the impact humans are having on the planet’s eco-system.

If André can spare the time from his busy schedule of scientific experiments, he will be taking photos and videos of Earth Hour from space. We are hoping for clear skies on Saturday – unlike some ESA satellites, André cannot see through clouds or beneath Earth’s crust, but he can certainly capture the delicate beauty our planet.

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