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ISS astronaut captures stunning 'star trail' photos (VIDEO)

Wednesday - 3/28/2012, 10:45am  ET

StarTrail640.jpg
The aurora borealis dances across the Earth's atmosphere. (Courtesy of NASA)

WASHINGTON - This is not your average trip to the planetarium.

Since Alan Shephard's first orbit of the Earth in 1961, Americans have known what our planet looks like from space. But one contemporary astronaut has taken those still and video images a step further.

Don Pettit, a NASA astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station, took some beautiful, high-resolution photographs of the star-scape over Earth's surface, and the aurora borealis that dances across the atmosphere. Photographer Alex Rivest compiled the resulting images into a time-lapse video, producing some truly breathtaking footage.

"Space Station makes one revolution every 90 minutes (the Moon takes 28 days)," Pettit writes in a blog post. "As a result, long-exposure pictures taken from the Station show star trails as circular arcs, with the center of rotation being the poles of Space Station (perpendicular to our orbital plane)."

Check out what Pettit calls the "star trails" here:

h/t Mashable.com

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