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

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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
Is Your Town in the Path of the Next Total Solar Eclipse?
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iStock

On August 21, people across the continental U.S. got to witness a spectacular total solar eclipse. From Oregon to South Carolina, those in the path of totality saw the world go dark as the Moon completely covered the Sun. Even people hundreds of miles away from the path were able to see a partial eclipse.

The highly anticipated event was rare because of the path it carved across the U.S. Total solar eclipses happen often enough, but 2017 was the first year one has been visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979.

If you didn’t get to see the full eclipse this year, you’ll get a second chance—as long as you’re willing to wait a few years. The next total eclipse to cross the continental U.S. will occur in 2024, traversing parts of Mexico before heading up through Texas, across the Midwest, and past Buffalo and northwestern New England before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Future eclipses
Lucy Quintanilla

On April 8, 2024, cities like Dallas and Killeen, Texas; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Poplar Bluff, Missouri; Bloomington, Indiana; Cleveland, and Buffalo will get to witness the beauty of the solar corona, an event that dedicated eclipse chasers—who travel the world in pursuit of eclipse experiences—alternately describe as terrifying, weird, thrilling, mind-blowing, life-changing, and not entirely different from taking psychedelics.

See if you'll be in the path of totality come 2024 here. If you're going to travel to see it, you’d be smart to book your accommodations well in advance, since lodging in cities in the path of totality can book up years before the event. And this time, don't forget the eclipse glasses.

If you won’t be in the Midwest or New England in 2024, you’ll have another chance at an American eclipse viewing eventually. In August 2045, a total solar eclipse will journey across northern California through the continental U.S. and down to Florida and the Caribbean, passing over major cities from Reno to Miami along the way.

If you don’t want to wait until then, take a look at this infographic to see where across the world you can find an eclipse sooner. But our recommendation? Book yourself a room in Hot Springs for six years from now and prepare to take a rejuvenating soak while you watch.

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Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

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