Sunday, November 06, 2016

Do objects and people cast shadows inside the International Space Station?

Do astronauts cast shadows in space?

Astronaut Mike Hopkins casts a spoon shadow. Image courtesy of NASA.

I've been thinking about shadows a lot, and also space stations. This has involved reading about habitability studies, an area I started to investigate when I was writing about Skylab a few years ago. The point of this line of enquiry is whether shadows are considered when the interiors of space stations are designed. Perhaps they contribute to creating a feeling of homeliness. Perhaps a lack of shadows is something characterising a laboratory environment, or a solitary confinement cell, or a padded cell, and hence to be avoided. Astronauts are, after all, under constant surveillance. You can hide things in shadows. Things can hide themselves in shadows.

It's worth observing that a shadowless environment can occur when you have no light, or when you have too much light.

Part of the answer to this is how, when, where and with what the ISS is illuminated. It appears that the lighting at present is a combination of fluorescent and LED.  

A perusal of images of the interior shows that there are certainly shaded areas, and more highly illuminated areas. The restricted interior space, and the curvature will also have an impact on the appearance of shadows. Have a look at this one:

Image courtesy of NASA
Of course, when we see images of the inside, they are generally illuminated. But the space station is also darkened at 'night'.  Recently astronaut Alexander Gerst took a series of rather spooky pictures with the lights turned off. Clock this and tell me it doesn't send chills down your spine:

Image courtesy of NASA
Do you see that the helmets are hooded? Is this from fear of what you might see if you looked through the visor?

Perhaps illumination inside the ISS is designed to avoid the ever-present uncanny, always just out of sight, in another module, or outside the window....

1 comment:

  1. Ofcourse. At international space station, light exists and shadows are existed wherever light exists.