As more than a million Americans living on coastal areas prepare for evacuation to flee from the destructive path of Hurricane Florence, the astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) are keeping an eye on the Category 4 storm from their unique vantage point 250 miles (400 kilometers) above our planet.
Earlier today, the orbital post flew directly over the eye of the storm, which offered the astronauts unparalleled views of Hurricane Florence in all her might. The crew of Expedition 56 even managed to capture a few dramatic photos of the monster storm raging over the Atlantic Ocean, which they posted on social media to warn people about the devastating force of the hurricane.
The images were taken this morning at 7:50 a.m. EDT with a high-definition video camera mounted on the exterior of the space station and depict “stark and sobering views of Hurricane Florence,” stated NASA officials.
The bone-chilling photos were posted to Twitter by German astronaut Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, who commented on the importance of seeing “the big picture” and urged people to mind the official evacuation orders and “stay safe down there!”
“Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It’s chilling, even from space,” Gerst tweeted earlier today.
The space agency also released a bone-chilling video of Hurricane Florence recorded from orbit on September 12. The footage — which includes still images taken from space by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, notes CNET — shows the massive storm churning “across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction,” barreling down with wind speeds at 130 miles per hour.
The hurricane is expected to reach the coastlines of North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday morning, with experts estimating that it will continue to grow in strength.
At the same time, NASA is tracking Hurricane Florence with the Suomi NPP satellite, which passed over the eye of the storm in the early hours of September 12, at 2:12 a.m. EDT. These satellite observations revealed that the powerful Category 4 hurricane is 400 miles wide (643 kilometers) and will most likely unleash very heavy rainfall over parts of the U.S. East Coast.
To put things into perspective, the space agency notes that Hurricane Florence spans a distance equal to the one between Baltimore in Maryland and Boston in Massachusetts.
In fact, Gerst wrote on Twitter that Hurricane Florence is “so enormous” it could only fit in the frame of a wide-angle camera.
“Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you,” the astronaut tweeted a few hours ago.
Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you. #Horizons pic.twitter.com/ovZozsncfh— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) September 12, 2018
Meanwhile, NASA’s Aqua satellite snapped an infrared image of Hurricane Florence on September 11, at 2:30 a.m. EDT. The satellite’s MODIS instrument also detected “thick rings of powerful storms” swirling around the eye of the hurricane.
Imaged in red in the photo above, these storms have “cloud tops as cold as or colder than minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.6 degrees Celsius),” notes the space agency.