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Round and round it goes. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
SENSE OF SPACE

A NASA photo shot straight into the sun reveals how tiny we really are

By Selina Cheng

Astronomy photography offers a glimpse of the wonderful universe beyond. It also reminds us how small we are in our own little world. The photo department at NASA recently selected its 66 favorite photos of 2016, including a stunning 10-frame composite showing the tiny International Space Station (ISS) drifting across the sun.

The International Space Station juxtaposed against the sun, Dec. 17, 2016 (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Taken by Joel Kowsky in Newbury Park, California, the photo shows the ISS against the sun. While the ISS is 109 meters (357 feet) wide, almost the size of an American football field, the sun is 12 million times larger, over 1.39 million kilometers (865,000 miles) in diameter. That’s the equivalent of a fly ash in a football field. But because the station runs in low Earth orbit, it is much closer to the camera than the sun, allowing a play of perspective that captures both man-made and natural space objects in the same frame.

Take a look at a few more amazing shots by NASA photographers, during the last orbital period of planet Earth:

A closer crop showing the ISS in greater detail. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The planet Mercury in silhouette, lower left, as it transits across the face of the sun on Monday, May 9, 2016, taken from NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard launching Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft as it lands with Expedition 48 crew members, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, Sept. 7, 2016. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is helped out of the Soyuz spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts landed after completing 172 days onboard the ISS, Sept. 7, 2016. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Friday, August 12, 2016 in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The moon, or supermoon, is seen rising behind the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan, Nov. 14, 2016. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)