As the sun shutters the world, city lights crackle to life.

There's a dancing curtain of aurora borealis. And stars seemingly swarming all around.

This is Earth, as seen from hundreds of kilometres away, by a handful of its most fortunate citizens.

We should all see the world from this vantage.

It may, in fact, do us a world of good.

"When we look down on the Earth from space, we see this indescribably beautiful planet," says astronaut Ron Garan in a short documentary released at the end of last year called Overview. "It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also at the same time looks extremely fragile."

Indeed, that staggering perspective, dubbed 'the overview effect', may be the most enduring legacy of space travel — the sense of a home that is intimately shared.

"We're all basically living in this one eco-system called Earth," Garan adds. "And everything you do on one side of the eco-system affects the other side."

That sense of interdependence drives the film's powerful environmental message — understanding borne of a stellar perspective. But it's a perspective that one doesn't need to leave the Earth to gain.

In 1968, when Apollo 8 ventured to the moon, astronauts beamed back stunning images of the Earth.

"That was the first time I had ever seen the planet hanging in space like that," says author Frank White in the film. "And it was profound."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to Ron Garan as former astronaut. He is, in fact, an active astronaut with NASA.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Valentine

    "All the grains of sand in all the deserts can't compare to the number of ways I love you. #ValentineFromSpace"

  • Earth Art

    "If you give wind and sand enough time together, they create art."

  • Amazon

    'The incredibly green lush wetness of the Amazon basin."

  • Someone Misses Starbucks

    "These delicate cappuccino frosting decorations are, in fact, endless hummocks of Saharan sand."

  • Pop!

    'The Earth has problem skin; one popped, the other didn't."

  • It Totally Does

    "Even as I took this picture I was thinking it will make a nice desktop background. And it does."

  • Andes

    "Some fault lines are visible from space. Tectonic plates make a rift in the Andes."

  • South America

    "Tonight's Finale: Nature inspires awe - cloud, ice and rock in southern South America."

  • Mexico

    "Happy Alligator Lake, Mexico. I'm certain it has an official name, but that's what it looks like to me."

  • Haruna

    'Tonight's Finale: Haruna, a large and powerful tropical cyclone, wreaks clockwise destruction across Madagascar."

  • Africa

    "This taffy-twisted African rock reminds me of a dolphin, and Alfred Hitchcock."

  • Freetown, Sierra Leone

    "Freetown. A major west African port city, capital of Sierra Leone."

  • Sandy Musings

    "I don't think that sand came from those rocks."

  • Haggis (Well, Not Really)

    "This green Aussie lake somehow reminds me of a haggis."

  • Argentina

    "Glacial water burping into the Atlantic in deep Southern Argentina."

  • Sahara

    "Arid fingers of sand-blasted rock look like they're barely holding on against the hot Saharan wind."

  • Martian Earth

    "Mars is a very interesting planet, with its rugged, ancient surface. But this is Earth."

  • Cloud

    "Tonight's Finale: There is an undeniable beauty in human imagination. What do you see in this Saharan cloud?"

  • Oyster?

    "Your perspective often dictates what you see. From here I see a puffball on an oyster half-shell. How about you?"

  • Scaly Earth

    "Dragon skin. A bad place to take a walk, near the Horn of Africa."

  • Himalayas

    "Tonight's Finale: The Himalayas to the horizon, gives me such a feeling of wild grandeur."

  • Patagonia

    "Tonight's finale:You hear all about the man in the moon, but what about the man in Patagonia?"

  • New Zealand

    "As I look at the verdant fjords and inlets of southern NZ, I ask myself can this possibly be real? Yet there it is."

  • South Africa

    "Where there's water, there's life. Serpentine river and center pivot irrigation farms in South Africa."

  • Outback

    "A lot of the Australian Outback looks like somebody spilled something on it."

  • Quebec Crater

    "Tonight's Finale: Asteroid impact - the Manicouagan Crater in Quebec. On old scar, but a big one at 100 km across."

  • Croatia

    "Split, Croatia, a fine natural harbor on the gorgeously rugged Adriatic coast."

  • Cape Town

    "Cape Town, South Africa, the glinting sun highlighting the water."

  • Australia

    "King George's Sound, Australia. Charles Darwin got off the Beagle and hosted a dance here in February, 1836."

  • Haruna From Feb. 21

    "Eye of the Storm - Tropical Cyclone Haruna, today over Madagascar, with Canadarm2 pointing at the eye."

  • Moon Rise

    "Tonight's Finale: The full moon rises over the only planet we have ever called home."

  • Baby Bergs

    "Mama Iceberg and her litter of baby ice cubes, slowly melting into the South Atlantic Ocean."

  • Outback Faces

    "The Outback is full of scary faces, staring up in forbidding horror."

  • Aurora

    "Tonight's finale: Northern Lights - recent aurora in green and red waves, USA and Canada below, the universe above."

  • Abstract Earth

    "Clouds, shadows and sand, playing with my imagination."

  • Bellybutton

    "Earth has a bellybutton! My guess is that this perfect African circle is a meteor impact crater."

  • BONUS: Space Pajamas

    "Weightless in my new space pajamas - made in Russia, very warm and comfy."

  • Next: The ISS On Twitter

  • <blockquote>Oil drilling draws a circuit board on the ochre landscape. pic.twitter.com/piYgOCsWYQ</blockquote>

  • <blockquote>Tonight's Finale: The Richat Structure. A giant gazing eye upon the Earth. pic.twitter.com/Uqv9JSh17b</blockquote>

  • <blockquote>An angry thunderstorm stands out against infinity. pic.twitter.com/du78qXnViK</blockquote>

  • <blockquote>Mt Etna, pouring heat and steam and smoke up through the snowcap. Earth never ceases to amaze. pic.twitter.com/xVjJ9oiwkW</blockquote>

  • <blockquote>Cloud over western Europe, rippled like water over a stone. pic.twitter.com/nlryEezlwh</blockquote>

  • <blockquote>Perth on the Swan to the sea, Western Australia. pic.twitter.com/MvrIuCs8eT</blockquote>

  • Chris Hadfield In Water

  • In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013, the Greek Island of Corfu is shown. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)

  • RE-TRANS FOR HIGHER RESOLUTION - This Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013 photo provided by NASA, taken by Astronaut Chris Hadfield from the International Space Station, shows a view of the wildfire near Burrinjuck Dam in Australia. Look closely and you can see the flames from orbit. (AP Photo/NASA, Chris Hadfield)

  • In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013, corn rows of sand, tightly sculpted by wind, heat and time is shown in Saudi Arabia. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)

  • In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 6, 2013, a Noctilucent Cloud, a rare super high altitude cloud barely visible from Earth, is seen at dawn in the mesosphere from International Space Station. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)

  • Newfoundland and Labrador, shot without zoom, is shown in a photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)

  • In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 5, 2013, the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio, and Detroit are shown. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield) (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)