This incredible image was captured on the International Space Station (ISS) on February 12, 2023. In it, NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Nicole Mann‘s image is refracted through a sphere of water flying weightlessly in microgravity.
Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one transparent medium to another, such as when light passes from air to water or from air to a glass lens. When light enters a new medium, such as water or glass, it changes speed and direction, which causes it to bend or change its path. The amount of bending that occurs depends on the angle at which the light hits the surface of the medium and the difference in the refractive indices (a measure of how much the speed of light changes in the medium) of the two media.
The phenomenon of refraction has many practical applications, such as in lenses used in eyeglasses or cameras, in the design of optical instruments, and in the study of the properties of materials. Refraction also plays an important role in the formation of optical illusions and mirages.
Nicole Mann is one of the Crew-5 astronauts that arrived on station on October 6, 2022, after launching aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on October 5. She conducted spacewalks on January 20 and February 2, accompanied by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, in construction work related to the installation of the International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs).