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5 Man-Made Things You Can See from Space (Plus One You Really Can’t)

Nicole Stott, via Universe Today

Which of mankind’s marvels can we actually spot from the final frontier? This question calls for a little perspective. Space is big. Sure, you might be able to gaze at the Amazon River while hovering a few hundred miles above sea level. But from the moon, you could barely even make out the continents! And our whole planet looks like nothing more than a dinky blue splotch from Mars’ surface. Still, astronauts traveling in Low Earth Orbit or on board the International Space Station can see quite a bit using nothing but their naked eyes.

1. The Great Pyramids at Giza

Some squinting may be required to spy Egypt’s greatest monuments in this picture snapped by astronaut Nicole Stott. If you’re really lost, look for a pair of triangular shadows near the center…

2. Bridges

Chris Hadfield, via Huffington Post

Long bridges crossing over straits stick out like a sore thumb. However, identifying them can be a pain. Last year, astronaut Chris Hadfield caught a glimpse of what he thought was the Golden Gate, but may have really been a less-glamorous bay area counterpart.

3. Lonely Desert Roads

Chris Hadfield, via Universe Today

As Hadfield explains, desert highways look like “straight human [lines] drawn onto incredibly rough terrain," making them rather noticeable.

4. Cities at Night

NASA

Space-bound explorers have taken hundreds of nocturnal photos over various urban centers. Here’s a helpful interactive gallery. Go look up a metro area near you.

5. The Greenhouses of Almería

Wikimedia Commons

A sprawling sea of plastic greenhouses covers over 64,000 acres in southeastern Spain. Tons of fruits and veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) are produced here, generating $1.5 billon in revenue every year. 

Kinda, Sorta, Not Really Visible: The Great Wall of China

NASA, via Universe Today 

Let’s get a few things straight. Can you see this ancient marvel while walking on the moon, as many claim? No way. Again, people really can’t see much of any detail Earth-wise from up there. On a similar note, it’s also effectively out of sight for the International Space Station’s crewmembers.

Another persistent rumor holds that China’s Great Wall is the only man-made structure that’s visible from space. As we’ve seen, this is nonsense. This demonstrably-false idea dates back to at least the 1930s, long before manned space missions started taking off!

Yet, one vitally important question remains: Where does space start anyway? By most international standards (even though a certain Air Force disagrees), the boundary between Earth’s jurisdiction and outer space rests approximately 62 miles above sea level.

From this height, the Great Wall is technically visible, at least according to astronauts Eugene Cernan and Ed Lu. However, it’s not exactly conspicuous. Even under the best solar and weather conditions, this landmark is virtually indistinguishable from neighboring rivers and mountains. Therefore, most space-travelers miss the Wall entirely.

In fact, one person who definitely didn’t see it was China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei. “The scenery was very beautiful,” Liwei said after returning to Earth in 2003. “But I didn’t see the Great Wall.”

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Space
Now You Can Train to Be an Astronaut on Your Smartphone
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Just because you don't work for NASA doesn't mean you'll never make it as an astronaut. In the world of private space tourism, a little training could be all you need. And there's an app for that.

Space Nation, a Finnish space tourism startup, recently launched Space Nation Navigator, which the company touts as the first astronaut training app in the world. The app aims to train future space travelers using games, quizzes, and fitness challenges that fall into three categories: "body," "mind," and "social."

Each of the challenges is tailored to help you develop the skills you'd need to survive in space—even the mundane ones. One mission is called "Did you clean behind the fridge?" and is designed to highlight the unpleasant chores crew members on the ISS have to do to keep things tidy. There are "survival" quizzes that test your knowledge of how to properly build a fire, read a map, and dispose of your poop in the forest. The app also plugs into your smartphone fitness data so that you can participate in athletic challenges, like a 650-foot sprint designed to train you to escape a meteor impact zone.

Screenshots of the Space Nation Navigator app
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"Space Nation Navigator offers a way for anyone, anywhere to have a 15-minute astronaut experience every day. These astronaut skills—team building, problem solving, positive life hacks—are not just vital to survive in space," Space Nation CEO Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola said in a press statement. "They are also crucial in your daily life."

New challenges are added to your queue every few hours, and you can compete against other users for high scores. If you get enough points, you can become eligible for real-life training experiences with Space Nation, including a trip to Iceland. In 2019, Space Nation plans to hold an international competition to find one astronaut that the program will send to space.

If you're going to start training, we suggest you take some of the tests Project Mercury applicants faced back in 1958 to see how you'd stack up against the first NASA astronauts.

Get it: iOS, Android

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Big Questions
If Earth is Always Moving, Then How Do We See the Same Constellations Every Night?
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Luis Medrano:

6700 mph is nothing in cosmological speeds and distances. Constellations are freakin’ far away.

Get in a car at night and drive on a straight road, then look at the moon. The angle of the moon in respect to your point of view doesn’t change; it seems like the moon is following you wherever you go. Meanwhile, things that are really close to you—like electric poles, roadside buildings, and trees—seem to fly by really fast.

The effect is known as parallax. Things that are close seem to move faster and “travel more distance” (not really) than things that are far away.

In the video above, there are several objects in perspective. The light in the center, which represents the sun, was placed so far away you can barely see it move.

The sun is only eight light-minutes away; that’s 146 million km on average. At human scale it seems like a lot, but in cosmic distances it is nothing. Orion, for example, has stars that are from 243 to 1360 light years away from us. Imagine traveling at the speed of light for 1360 years. That’s how far these stars are. And these are not even the farthest stars. Some stars are Giga-light years away from us.

Now, with the proper precision instruments you can indeed notice the parallax in distant stars, just not with the naked eye. Furthermore, our solar system has moved so much since the early days of astronomy and astrology, the constellations do not correspond to the early astrology maps. The constellations appear shifted.

As a free info nugget: In case your life is ruled by astrology, whatever sign you think you are, you are not.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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