What is the Overview Effect?

The Overview Effect is something experienced by astronauts when they see the Earth from outer space. In this moment they are overwhelmed by love and compassion for our planet. It’s also seen as a transcendental experience. The astronauts are separated from Earth, while simultaneously feeling like a fundamental part of it. The distinction between the world as perceived from the outside, and as experienced inside, melts together in one holistic being.

If you want to know more about the Overview Effect, the examples below are a good starting point. 

On his deathbed (May 2014) former astronaut Wubbo Ockels talks about seeing the Earth from outer space.

Overview (20min) a mini-documentary about the Overview Effect, made by Planetary Collective. In this video astronauts and thikers talk about what it means for humanity.

Earthrise: What's it like to escape our planet (30min) a mini-documentary about the experiences of the Apollo 8 astronauts that saw the Earth from the Moon, and took one of Earth’s most famous photos.

The Overview Effect by Frank White is an extensive research into the Overview Effect. For this book he interviewed numerous astronauts about their experiences. 

The Overview Effect: Awe and Self-Transcendent Experience in Space Flight is a paper from Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1–11. This paper gives a scientific explanation about the Overview Effect. > Download PDF

Can you experience the Overview Effect without travelling to space?

The Overview Effect exists in several gradations. The most overwhelming experience is when you’re deep into outer space and see the Earth floating in the black void. But you can have the same feeling while standing on a mountain top or sitting in an airplane. Or by simply looking at a picture of the Earth for a while. The other way is a kind of reversed Overview Effect, namely by looking upwards into the galaxy, while realising that the Sun is a star. Or by lying below a clear sky at night, gazing through spaceship Earths windshield at the stars.

Below you can find a couple of ways of producing the Overview Effect in yourself.

One way is simply looking upwards at night more often. Filmmaker and stargazer Wylie Overstreet beautifully illustrates this in the video below. He takes his telescope to the streets to give passer-by’s the possibility to view the moon from close. The reactions he gets are heart-warming.

You can also visit the Columbus Earth Center in Kerkerade, where you float above the Earth in a reversed planetarium.

The iSpace Lab researches how virtual reality could help to simulate the Overview Effect in their Virtual Eathgazing project.

For your computer or smartphone there is  Google Earth (free) or Living Earth (betaald) an app that shows you a simulated Earth, including weather and illuminated cities.