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Photos from space

They might not compare to the illuminations in Blackpool (then, what does?), but we’ve fallen hard for these snaps taken by the Expedition 25 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). It’s not often that we’re humbled by photos – especially in the age of Photoshop – but these images, taken 220 miles above Earth, have managed to achieve that.

The first image clearly shows a well-lit Italy giving its near neighbour Sicily the proverbial boot (a picture that amuses children, and, let’s be honest, adults, no end). The second photograph depicts the northern Gulf coast of America: starting from the city of Mobile (top left), New Orleans and Houston are then shown as the illuminated line moves south-eastward Dallas and Little Rock are seen further inland.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Expedition programme and, somewhat fittingly, as of last week, the programme holds the record for the longest continual human presence in space. Pretty impressive.

What’s also remarkable is the fact the ISS is testament to human cooperation. An amalgamation of American, Russian, European and Japanese projects, the ISS has housed Expedition 25 since the end of September and, of course, the 24 missions before then.

Expedition 25 is comprised of six crew – Commander Douglas Wheelock and his five Flight Engineers Shannon Walker, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Scott J. Kelly, Aleksandr Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka – and they will have carried out a number of crucial experiments before the end of November when Expedition 25 comes to a close.

Ground control to Major Tom, one last fact: the space station travels at an average speed of 17,239.2 mph and orbits the Earth nearly 16 times a day. And yes, we were joking about the lights up in Lancashire earlier. This is much more like it.