By Matthew DeMello
To infinity and beyond, it’s no secret that social media has infiltrated every corner of our lives on planet Earth. Nevertheless, certain social media accounts offer us mere humans new perspectives, above and beyond our insular existences on this measly rock.
Among our favorite “internet worm holes” here at BTR is following the many interstellar online channels to enjoy mind-blowing images from the depths of outer space.
So put away your telescope and pick up that bong, because we’re about to go… where at least one other person has taken a picture.
“Early tomorrow Steve Swanson will reach out & pluck a Cygnus cargo ship from space using Canadarm2. Sleep well.” Photo via @Cmdr_Hadfield.
One of the internet’s best-loved treasures, Canadian-born retired astronaut Cmdr. Chris Hadfield of NASA is best known for a viral video where he sings David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. Perhaps he accomplished a moonage daydream of many, however, copyright issues have caused Hadfield’s astronomical cover to be intermittently taken down in the past. Hadfield may be putting his troubadour and spacewalking skills to rest for now, but his Twitter account is probably the best feed on the web for catching scenes of intergalactic bliss.
“The Space Race towards the Stars #ISS HQ blog.” Photo via @OlegMKS.
American history books and pop culture tend to downplay the pioneering contributions of our former Space Race competitors, the Russians. Case in point: the Star Trek character Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig, was added to the show’s original cast after the first season when a Russian newspaper editorial complained it was preposterous that a diverse vision of future space travel would somehow not include a Russian.
But Oleg Artemyev is hardly a hastily added-on side character to the happenings at the International Space Station. In fact, he’s up there right now, serving as Flight Engineer and probably conducting a pretty epic space walk. So I guess less like Chekov, and more like Scotty? Either way, his Twitter account is pretty much like the space dock scene of 2001 on repeat.
“The Nile river. An amazing source of fertile land.” Photo via @Astro_Alex.
Are you one of those people who could spend hours globetrotting vicariously on Google Earth? Do you love to fly places simply for the thrill of envisioning other human beings as tiny ants going about their daily leaves thousands of feet below? Well, we have the perfect Twitter account for you. Alexander Gerst is a German astronaut, geophysicist, volcanologist, and explorer, currently living and working aboard ISS. He’s responsible for a plethora of alien’s-eye-views of life here on Earth coming from the European Space Agency.
“ISS in 5 sec exposures flying over Devon.” Photo via @andy_sweet.
Just because you didn’t graduate from astronaut school doesn’t mean that you can’t explore the abyss from the comfort of your own home. With that in mind, the Virtual Astronomer Twitter account (@VirtualAstro) is operated by a self-described “Astronomer, cyclist, and much much more” who provides a collection of info and photos of space from the above sources and more. The welcoming account encourages its amateur audience to explore the astral plane by studying the stars visible from their own backyards.
Also, if you live in the UK and take the effort to locate the ISS in the night sky on any given night, @VirtualAstro gives live updates on when the space station will be passing over and can be best seen.
Comet 67P. Photo courtesy of European Space Agency.
Is it not the future yet until unmanned space probes have Twitter accounts that speak in the first person? Well folks, the wait for tomorrow is over. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is currently getting up close and personal with comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko, marking the first time a spacecraft has made rendezvous with a comet, as opposed to a fly-by.
Though most photography coming from Rosetta are derived from a multitude of fancy equipment, the probe’s Twitter page, @ESA_Rosetta, is dominated by images taken from the craft’s Optical Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System (or OSIRIS for short). It’s more or less like the third act of Armageddon, only with greater scientific accuracy.