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Show HN: My daughter and I made a site to explore the photos from the ISS (callumprentice.github.io)
528 points by callumprentice on June 14, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

Some of those are close to what I was thinking might be good for a sequence capture - provide a way to make the start/end of a sequence and then the page generates a bunch of curl commands to grabs them perhaps. Once you have them locally, making a moving would be quite straightforward.

ISS-EOL website[0] provides videos (though the interface is quite... uncomfortable to say the least), and you can get a zipfile with all the images provided, JPEG+EXIF metadata and all. I've been helping a friend do exactly what you said for the last year or so[1], amongst other things.

[0] https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Videos/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/

[1] https://youtu.be/JfNuRce2FEE

Excellent. Thanks for heads up and I’ll take a look. Especially, thank you for That video. It’s truly spectacular - thank you for sharing.

Great service! All it took to find these less beautiful pictures of Germany was the rough location from google maps entered in the url:


It shows why Germans still burn coal in their houses. A lot of closeups of the surface mining of coal outside Cologne.

Umm, no. That brown coal is used for gaining electricity. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagebau_Inden

Yes, these do but there are many coal mines in Germany...



Looks like they had some computer trouble: https://callumprentice.github.io/apps/iss_photo_explorer_fla...

(In case the link isn't stable, they photo'd their computer having a kernel panic.)

Stable link: https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/SearchPhotos/photo.pl?mission=ISS02...

(It’d be neat to have the image ID in the explorer link to this page.)

Great idea - thank you. Off the top of my head, I am not sure if I have the information I need though - actually - I do! I have the mission, roll and frame - much better than hoping my site is around forever.

What do you think - a share think page link that goes to the appropriate version of what you posted?

Added your suggestion since it was easy to do - thank you for the idea.

Glad I could help—and thank you for making this!

Merged both of your other PRs in wolfgang - really appreciate the contributions.

(He was kind enough to patches for improving the to the NASA page for each photo and letting the About box scroll so you could read it!)


Brilliant - I wa hoping it might be a good way to share interesting photos like this - thank you.

Having a chat over a beer some years later: 'so I was taking some pictures when the kernel crashed..400km above the earth'...

Wow, that's nice! I must admit I wasn't particularly curious about it but a fortuitous click over the region where I live returned some really nice pictures! Nice exploration tool!

A feature request if I may: it would be incredible if somehow I could zoom in a bit on the world map as there are so many shots over multiple passes of the ISS that it's very hard to pinpoint the desired place on the map, it's almost by chance sometimes.

I'm not sure about the utility of the whole thing - I think I'd just like to filter the images (bottom two panes) according to the section of the World I'd zoomed in the top pane. I'd have top-left, World map; bottom-left thumbnails; full-page-right current image. So I could zoom to an area of the World, all images that cover that area would be in the thumbnails, select a thumbnail to view. Ideally if zoomed enough then there might be outlines on the World map that show the imaged areas available.

Cool idea though.

Understood and I like your suggestion. The problem we had trying to preview too much was that pulling the 'small' (still quite large) images off their web server for each lat/lng point seemed to bring it to its' knees. I wish there was a quick way to see a thumbnail - that opens up a bunch of ideas. I considered downloading all 3.5M images (in batches) and converting to 128x128 thumbs to store and serve locally but probably not good form to do that to NASA and my tired old computer would get rather sad I think.

Hopefully someone else will be inspired to improve on the idea though.

I am not a Nastronaut, but I think NASA wold love this project; they’re keen to show off their work and engage with the public as much as possible.

Making thumbnails of the images seems like a useful task in itself.

Yeah - I reached out to the people listed o nthe main photo page - we'll see if they are able to respond.

Thank you and zooming is a great idea that I hadn't considered after the switch from the WebGL globe (which did that of course). I'll add that to the list - thank you.

Yeah, I tried to select the Bay Area and had a bit of a difficult time doing so :(

Yeah - sometimes their web server seems to stall. That was the main reason we added a feature to turn off the thumbnails - getting those slows things down a lot - not sure if they are throttling it somehow.

You can always manually enter the lat/lng (37.7749, -122.4194) in the URL until I figure a way to make zoom work.

One of the really interesting things about the ISS photos NASA publishes... They've been doing it for 20+ years now, so there's a lot of historical high res data to go through. Pretty much from the first days that high-quality fully digital SLR cameras were available in the early 2000s, NASA flew them to the ISS. Even the photos from 2001 are really crisp.

If you look carefully at the computers in the photos from 1999 onwards, you'll be able to see NASA's evolution through more than a dozen generations of Thinkpad laptops. I think they started with A20 / T20 models (600 MHz mobile Pentium 3) and went onwards from there. There's a number of photos where you'll see 5 or 6 thinkpads tilted at various angles clustered around one area to form a workstation.



an array of thinkpads: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThinkPad#/media/File:ISS-38_EV...

Is it surprising they've stuck with them through the Lenovo era? I'd expect NASA to have a policy of buying American (I know components are going to be made in China regardless) even when there isn't a national security consideration.

They switched to HP ZBooks in 2016. Interesting article listing all the models used: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/from-windows-10-linux-i...

For example HP Elitebooks are made by Inventec. Look at ODM https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_laptop_brands_and_ma... . Actual prpduct brand names don't mean that much...

it's an international space station though...

one where China is banned from participating


When I land on the page, I get three history entries in my browser as your page loads. This means that if I have no interactions with the site and want to go back to HN, I need to click back three times.

While I get that this isn't a bug, it is a usability peeve that I notice on more and more sites lately.

Merged it in and looks like it's in place - hopefully fix that nasty issue. Many thanks for the fix.

Got it and will integrate now - much appreciated and much better than the endless entries. Thank you.

Not everyone has your knowledge and ability

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're not familiar with GitHub, please correct me if I'm wrong.

A pull request (PR) includes the changes needed to fix the issue - the OP used their knowledge and ability to help :)

You can see the actual file change here: https://github.com/callumprentice/callumprentice.github.io/p...

Thank you. The parent to my comment originally had a snarky "and it only took me 45 seconds" to imply that instead of complaining the person he was replying to should have done what he did and opened a PR instead. Maybe I should reply using quotes so this sort of thing doesn't happen :)

Ahhhh! Yeah that makes sense, sorry for the assume! :)

It's not a new pattern though.

Before they've done it for telemetry and identifying which initiative this click is from. Nowadays it's just that they're redirecting the default route to a particular site after, so they could potentially switch the site they redirect to later.

While a small annoyance to mobile users which go there from sites like hn, it does give the owner of the site a tiny amount of control where ppl end up on their site.

At least that's my interpretation...

Still so annoying. I wish browsers at least might do something like skip quick redirects in history?

Browsers could pin recent other sites to the bottom of the visible history, so you can still leaf back within a website but moving back to the previous site is also very easy.

On desktop you can usually long-press the back button to get a list of the recent history and jump back two steps to avoid getting stuck.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see much in this one. When I tried a few locations by tapping around on the map, I only got black screens at the bottom even for the places that were supposed to have many photos. And then I found that the back navigation was hijacked by the site and it didn’t work for me. I’m using Firefox Focus on iOS, if that’s of any help to figure out what’s happening.

yeah - sometimes their web server seems to stall. That was the main reason we added a feature to turn off the thumbnails - getting those slows things down a lot - not sure if they are throttling it somehow.

Might also be a FF/iOS issue - I'll take a look.

> My daughter and I made a site to explore the photos from the ISS

Since you didn't just write "we made a site" but instead choose to explicitly state your daughter's part in it, you sparked some interest. How was she involved?

I could not find anything on the site itself.

Good point and that's an oversight - I had made an earlier version and wanted to update it with the latest mission photos. She very much enjoyed playing with the original but had trouble making it do what she wanted and had some suggestions. Over the last couple of weekends we made a new design (mostly her) and wrote some code (mostly me) but we talked about things like lat/lng and how they can be used to position a point on earth, the math code (at a high level) needed to convert them so they appear on the screen - that sort of thing. She's such an interested, engaged little thing that she appeared to love every minute of it - warmed my heart.

Author here. Thanks so much for the comments and even code fixes already. So very much appreciated - we had a mountain of fun working on it and I'm glad people are finding it useful too. Sounds like we need to add zooming next..

I really think it'd be great for finding and capturing long time lapse sequences - the few I have seen over the years are truly spectacular but I suspect there are many more out (in??) there waiting to be discovered.

It's a shame that the video livestream https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/ESRS/HDEV/ is not working anymore :(

Agreed - that was spectacular.

I really loved HDEV, especially watching sunrises & sunsets.

I have ~40,000 screengrabs I took for my twitter bot @hdevcam between 2015 - 2017 availible at http://billeberly.com/hdev if you want to relive those days.

Sadly, they're not the best quality - despite being the High Definition Viewing Experiment they never seemed to actually transmit in high def. And the files are just timestamped - the tweets had the locations too, but they weren't stored with the files. Maybe I should go do that on a rainy day sometime...

Fantastic and thanks for sharing - I can't wait to take a look. Sounds like a brilliant rainy Sunday afternoon project :)

How do you get your daughter into this? Mine just wants to paint and sculpt clay - she hates anything computer related because her school has "STEM" class where the force computers and STEM down their throats.

She maintains straight A's in everything except sport so ability isn't her issue. She hates academics in general though, her A's are because she's scared of doing badly / getting attention from her teachers.

Maybe mainstream schooling isn't for her. Total shite.

What's wrong with wanting to paint and sculpt clay?

Remember, it's OK to force a child to take an interest in something not generally associated with their gender. But it's not OK to encourage an interest in something that is generally associated with their gender.

The most likely outcome with a career in art is living close to poverty.

That is not actually true. The childhood hobby does not have to convert into profession, in most cases it remains adult hobby. Majority of people dont convert their childhood hobby into a job. Which is absolutely fine.

I am not reading horror books for a job either, despite spending awful lot of time with it as a kid and teenager.

But happy instead of spending your life doing something you don't like and dreaming about "escaping the rat race". Success in life is not measured by how much you own.

I agree that people should be happy. My daughter living in an area where she can't walk at home in the evening is not happy. Not being able to heat your home because you can't afford a decent place with good windows is not happy. Having the other people decide what you can or cannot do because you are not solvent is not happy.

She can happily take over as managing partner of my firm if she wants and cash out or use that expensive school education to get a top job and learn to FIRE early; she has options.

The arts as a profession really is one of those things where you should only get into it if you are so driven that you have no choice, IMO. More likely than not, you'll be scraping by in poverty for the rest of your life, seeking validation from funding gatekeepers, compromising your work in the process in order to secure funding to do it in the first place.

If you can bear the thought of doing some other work, then getting a decent paycheck and having art as more of a hobby or side venture may be much more fulfilling. (And frankly, most people I know in the arts do all kinds of side jobs to pay the bills, anyway.)

First, there is no dichotomy between art and computer. One can like both and learn both. Unfortunately, once someone sees dichotomy, not knowing or liking that other stuff can become identity. Not sure if you met "I can not be artistic/social because I am technical" thing, but opposite "I can not like tech cause I see myself artistic or social" exist too.

I agree that there is nothing wrong with being artist, but it is absolutely normal and ok for parent to want to show good in other things. Artistic parents are also teaching their kids to like art and that is good. She does not have to become programmer, but hating computers for being computers will harm and limit her.

So, I think that talking to her about what she likes and dislikes, why and how the school approach is putting her off could help. If her distaste is because of school, it would be good to help her separate thing (computer), skill (ability to do stuff with it) and the way they force it on her in school. If she has bad feelings about even touching computer, talking, asking questions and listening helps. Ask questions and listen more, talk less.

Also, most of professional drawing is done on computer or tablet these days. Sometimes seeing that the technical is not separate from what you like and can be integral to it can help overcome the hate. If she is watching youtube videos artists make, she must have seen that. There are also easy to use apps that help you make stop motion videos from photos, funny animated stories, 3d modeling and so on. Some of these could help her overcome the dislike. Yet also, making pics of her art, putting it on webpage is something artist might find useful.

The point there is that there is not line between computer and art, just a skill you can acquire and use creatively.

Also, my daughter had periods where she seen computer related things as boy things (to my great annoyance) and avoided them. Or where she concluded she is naturally bad, because basically someone else knew a little bit more so the other kid looked more talented. There, explaining that it is learnable and showing her how little effort it took to learn more helped a lot.

Your daughter sounds awesome, is there a problem with her being an artist?

Can't really argue against mainstream schooling often being shite, obviously, and the arts are generally the first thing to be axed. But in case you've not seen it, I often come back to this video when I have any doubt at all about the value of these pursuits, not just as a viable career, but also in finding happiness for my kids:


Thanks for your insight my friend.

My left and right brain are fighting each other over that video.

On the one hand; what a wonderful story!

On the other hand; I'm sure that lady from the story is one in a million.

My daughter is still in her teens and she's great at Maths, Science and Art. I have no idea what she will choose to do. I would hate to push her away from something she loves but at the same time I need to ensure she can survive in this world without me. She also has classic Asia mother so I need to handle that too haha.

It's tough to be a parent - nobody teaches you how to do this. Nobody you trust anyway.

Conventional thinking now says to NOT FOLLOW YOUR PASSION (time's have changed it seems.)

I always thought no but then I remember what it was like when I tried to leave home and got paid very little with my working class job. I had to live in one of the roughest parts of the city.

My wife is from a poor country too so she's also keen on our daughter being solvent.

The chances of her making a decent living from art are close to zero. Some alum came back to present her work at my daughters school, as part of her presentation she mentioned that she works two jobs as a waitress and barista and does her art around that; she's 25 years old.....

We're a family that have lived in multiple countries and now run two very successful businesses. It would be odd if our daughter became a struggling artists who no options beyond living in a trash part of a working class town.

I have never tried to steer her away from art but as she's getting older I can see that she'll likely ask us to pay for a 6-figure degree in what is effectively a hobby.

I want her to be happy but I worry that this world isn't an easy place if you're broke. You don't get to make your own choices, someone else does.

We've also told all three of our kids that they can forget sitting around and doing nothing while they wait for their inheritance (as suggested by my youngest son). Both boys are now studying (one economics with an internship at EY and one has just started comp sci).

We live a fairly full and busy life with lots of international travel. We always invested heavily in our kids education hoping that will pay off in making them successful, responsible and independent adults.

I'd love for one of the kids to take over our consulting firm but if that doesn't happen then I will sell the company and use that to fund a nice retirement. I don't believe in intergenerational wealth and I think inheritance tax should be close to 100%.

I appreciate my kids my not like the same things that I do but they have a clear choice, use their elite education to launch themselves into being financially free otherwise follow a hobby / passion and take a gamble on living in an area where you can't walk home safely. I've been in both situations and I know which one I prefer.

side note: it would be cool if she made it as an artists though and lived a fulfilling life. I'm just clueless when it comes to the art world and how to not be poor. Maybe it's different in the US but the UK is a fucking depressing place if you're at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

It's depressing here too. LA/Hollywood has a reputation for it's enormous homeless population, and some blame the local government policies, and that's certainly played a role, and could definitely do better, but I think there's a large portion of hopeful migrants who just couldn't make it work as an artist/actor/etc.

That said, I think the internet has made it possible for many of them to find an audience that they wouldn't have had access to before, and eke out a living. They don't become mega rich and famous, and I think we have fewer superstars these days, but a lot more of these semi-famous people finding their audience. Patreon has been doing a lot to foster that kind of thing.

I feel bad for saying this too but I can't even imagine my daughter going from a family of education and business success to having to beg for money on patreon so she can continue to make clay dragons.

She's about to start 6th form at one of the top schools in the country - so many doors are open to her right now.

She loves doing things with me so when I suggested we have a crack at it, she was all for it. If I'd said let's go eat worms in the garden, she'd probably said the same thing.

Thanks. I had to find Sydney, here is a reasonable one with the distinctive Bondi Beach (approx top-center): https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/DatabaseImages/ESC/large/ISS005/ISS.... CBD and Harbour Bridge are covered by clouds.

Excellent - might be a good idea to add a button get your location's lat/lng - looking up where you are in always a fun thing to do.

Very cool. In a few moments I was able to find this picture of Hawaii, looks like there's some impression in the surface. Old volcano, meteor? :)


It's Diamond Head

Fantastic - as per earlier comment, I'm thrilled people can share interesting images like this.

I’m getting a “Loading data” page but no indication if the site is working. Has the sudden load taken it down?

I have found the performance of the image web server to be very spotty - I don't know if that's by design.

I do hope I haven't contributed to taking it down - that would be awful.

Wow, this is way better than the site that other guy made to explore the photos from ISIS

Doesn't seem to load in Firefox on my mobile.

Amazing creation! How old is your daughter? Very cool project for the two of you.

Thanks - she's almost 9 and loves tech, esp after the remote schooling on a laptop since the lockdown. She can't wait to get back to building stuff in Roblox though :)

> She can't wait to get back to building stuff in Roblox though :)

Roblox is an excellent programming environment if you weren't aware, that might be of interest? :)


Interesting - I hadn't looked into that yet but I will. Still trying to get over her using Roblox vs Second Life which is what I work on :)

The purple lines hide the map so I don't know where to click and this website kind of hijack the back button.... besides that, it appears to be a very nice project.

The purple lines show the location of all the photos - maybe should be a layer of their own and an option to vary opacity? It looks purple because the HSL color selected for that mission is purple and they took an awful lot of photos.

Someone was kind enough to submit a patch that fixes the back button should be okay now.

not sure what the best solution is but maybe those purple lines are not needed at all if you show pictures closest to where the user clicked on the map... or maybe make the map bigger so the lines are further away from each other

Noted - it's not great now and I'll see what I can do to improve it.

Looking at the code, this looks neat and minimal. I love the style.

I was struck by how simple and effective an idea this was, and the clean implementation. Great work!

That's very kind and thank you - the photos are a great resource and hopefully this will inspire other people to build and improve on our simple design.

Very cool. Maybe consider adding a fallback image for the thumbnails while they load since sometimes it takes a while.

Yep - you can replace them with a placeholder which makes thing much faster but of course, hides the content. I think there is a way to load a low res version first and have it be replaced when the full res one arrives. Shame the server doesn't provide thumbnails - only "small" and "large" as far as I can tell.

Wow really great way to explore this! Runs fine on Firefox focus, but not on 'regular' Firefox mobile

oh no - I used Chrome on iOS but I can take a look at Firefox - it might be a simple fix. Did you see anything in the console ?

"ResizeObserver" is not yet available in Firefox ESR and Firefox Mobile (v68): https://caniuse.com/#feat=resizeobserver

Ah - got it. I used that in an earlier project too. I will take a look and see if there is another way to do what I want without it. Thank you.

Awesome! Would be super cool if the map could be zoomed so I can try to catch pictures of my region :)

Yep - had a couple of requests for that and will work on it later today - good idea - thank you.

This is so cool! Thanks for sharing and great job to you both, some great wallpaper worthy shots here

Again - thank you for the kind comments - we both really appreciate it.

related, but I made something similar too for a nasa hackathon a few years back


Very nice - I entered the original version of this in the 2015 Apps Challenge.

Ah yeah we forked the codebase here and added NASA's api to it basically


This looks great! How do you divide the tasks with your daughter?

Someone asked that elsewhere too and noted I didn't have anything up on the bout page - I'll fix that.

She came up with the design after struggling with an earlier version I made (also on my site) and wanted it to be easier for her to "find pretty shots" - she sketched out some ideas - didn't care for the globe, and I wrote the code mostly. She expressed some interest in the idea of lat/lng and how it can be used to specify a position anywhere on earth. It was so much fun and the combo of JavaScript and a browser is so easy to work with and has instant results.

What is the standard tool the industry uses to analyze pictures like this? I see these are JPEG's, that can't be the best format for this type of data, is it?

JPEG is good for display. If you want to do any sort of analysis on the image, you'll want a lossless format that can handle multiple channels and the georeferencing metadata. TIFF is pretty good for that. There are a bunch depending on what sensor you're getting them from and what you plan on doing with them. And how sensitive you are to having a pallet of hard drives fed-exed to your office.

GDAL (https://gdal.org) is a wonderful tool that can handle essentially any geographic raster image imaginable. Tools like ArcGis or Grass can also deal pretty well with hyperspectral images. Lots of GIS shops also roll very customized image pipelines if they have particular needs.

I would have imagined they capture images with all kinds of visible/non-visibles light too - perhaps this is just the bucket that they dump the images from pr0/consumer devices into?

Cool. After like 5 random clicks, all I get is black as the bottom images. Eventually the bottom right says "unable to load this image".

Yeah - it seems to struggle serving up images sometimes sadly. Sorry - I don't think there is anything I can do except perhaps add some kind of loading... graphic.

Amazing. Very convenient, it's so cool to browse such an incredible catalog so easy.. great job guys, thanks for sharing!

So pleased you found it useful - thanks for taking the time to comment.

There are some truly incredible photos there..

Please do post the great ones - I'm making a collection.

I had a great time exploring randomly some places, our planet is too beautiful seen from above.

It really is isn't it.. I hope to see it one day in person but I think that option is rapidly diminishing for me at least - perhaps my daughter.

I want to check this out, but it's crashing on Firefox 77.0.1 on Linux. Seems cool though!

Is there anything in the console to indicate what went wrong? Happy to fix it if I can.

Looks like it was a low memory issue on my part. Cool site!

I smiled big time

Very Cool!


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