Bright blue balls appear in photo captured from space; understand what they are | Technology

An astronaut aboard International Space Station (ISS) took a photograph while orbiting over Southeast Asia, and captured two bright blue balls, one seen just above the South China Sea (the highest in the image) and the other over the Gulf of Thailand.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, the larger blue ball, which appears at the bottom of the image, is bright lightning over the Gulf of Thailand. It is generally rare to observe lightning from within the ISS, as clouds cover this type of event. However, in the case of photography, this phenomenon happened next to a large gap, which allowed the formation of the luminous ring.

The smaller ball, at the top of the photograph, is the Moon. Light reflecting back from the Sun passes directly through the Earth’s atmosphere, and this phenomenon turns the Moon into a bright blue blob.

The Vietnamese coast and Thailand anchor the center of the image (see below). For context, the distance from Hainan to Kunming, a city in southern China, is over 800 kilometers.

In the background of the photo, the circular shape of the island of Hainan – the southernmost province of China – is outlined by the lights of its coastal cities. Millions of years ago, Hainan was connected to the mainland. Then a rift formed in the Hainan Strait and separated the two landmasses. Today, Hainan is about 20 kilometers from mainland China.

In several parts of the image, storm clouds blur the city lights in shades of white and orange. Thailand’s landscape is illuminated by the city lights of Ubon Ratchathani, Amnat Charoen and Yasothon, and the road network that connects them. Inland along the coast of Vietnam, a swath of darkness includes less populated areas of southern Laos.

In this image, it is possible to understand the location of the blue balls in relation to the Earth’s geography — Photo: NASA Earth Obsrvatory

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