spaceSpace and Physics

This Video From Space Shows Two People Walking Round A Corner In North Korea


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Some highlighted landmarks from the video. UrtheCast

So, this is pretty cool. A high-resolution camera on the International Space Station (ISS) has captured incredibly detailed footage of North Korea, and it managed to pick out two people walking on the ground.

The camera, called IRIS and operated by a company called UrtheCast, was installed on the ISS in 2014. Since then, we’ve already seen some of its footage, including skyscrapers in Dubai and pyramids in Egypt.


This latest batch of videos, though, honed in on the secretive country of North Korea, specifically the capital city, Pyongyang. The footage was taken on May 30, 2016, from a height of 400 kilometers (250 miles).

Owing to the speed of the station, 28,000 km/h (17,500 mph), the buildings appear to move as the camera sweeps over the ground. In the video above, a number of notable landmarks are visible, in addition to cars on the ground. A few landmarks are highlighted in the image at the top of this article.

But it’s the people turning a corner that really grabbed our interest. Of course, there are other cameras on satellites capable of capturing people. In fact, some are apparently capable of imaging a smartphone in your hands, although US government regulations prevent those images from being released as they are deemed too accurate, and no doubt rather creepy.

In the gif below, you can see the black smudge that denotes the people, who are seen in the grounds of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum where North Korean leaders are laid to rest.


The people are the black smudge seen moving near the center. UrtheCast

Although it looks like one person, a spokesperson for UrtheCast told IFLScience it was probably more than one, “likely a military-style procession around the mausoleum”. Normally, features this small – i.e. people – are lost in the broader noise of the video, so it’s rare to see this on the IRIS camera.

There are some small flashes of light too, seen in the gif and in the video, which is the result of sunlight glaring off objects as the station moves overhead.

IRIS is continuously viewing the ground, although we only occasionally get snippets like this publicly released. But when they do, it’s pretty awesome to see such small features on the ground from space.


spaceSpace and Physics
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  • international space station,

  • IRIS,

  • satellite,

  • North Korea,

  • UrtheCast,

  • ground images