Hurricane Earl As the Astronauts See It

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An astronaut on the International Space Station has photographed Hurricane Earl as it heads towards the U.S. coast as a powerful Category 4 storm.

American astronaut Douglas Wheelock of NASA has been photographing hurricanes from windows on the International Space Station and posting them on Twitter. Hurricane Earl is his latest target, though he also caught stunning views of Hurricane Danielle recently. [Photo of Hurricane Earl from space station.]

"Hurricane Earl is gathering some strength," Wheelock wrote Tuesday on Twitter, where he is chronicling his space mission under the name Astro_Wheels. "It is incredible what a difference a day makes when you're dealing with this force of nature. Please keep a watchful eye on this one ... not sure if Earl will go quietly into the night like Danielle."

Hurricane Earl strengthened to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength Monday. As of this morning, it is moving toward the west-northwest with maximum sustained winds of up to 135 mph (217 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center. The earlier hurricane, Danielle, has weakened into a tropical storm.

Wheelock is one of six astronauts living on the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 220 miles (354 km). In addition to windows in the space station's U.S, Russian and Japanese segments, astronauts can also use a special seven-window observation deck called the Cupola to photograph the Earth and space.

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