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This surreal timelapse shows how beautiful Earth is from space

During his six-month stay on the International Space Station, German astronaut Alexander Gerst took more than 12,500 photos — of the Milky Way, the aurora borealis, the illumination produced by cities at night, and all other sorts of beautiful sights that we can't see well living down here on earth.

Recently, the European Space Agency released a video that knits together some of these photos into a series of astounding time lapses. The video is so surreal that at times, it looks like you're watching a computer rendering, rather than actual footage.

It's easy to forget that we live on a rotating sphere. This video will powerfully drive that fact home. The whole thing is definitely worth watching, but here are a few highlights:

Central Europe and the boot of Italy at night:


The Cygnus cargo capsule is released and heads home:


(European Space Agency)

Sunrise on the ISS, surrounded by the aurora borealis:


(European Space Agency)